Archive for April, 2020

Friday, April 24, 2020

The science of making the most of a rumor without confirming it

The following is a Q & A between a reporter of Pengpai News (literally: “Surge”, aka “The Paper”) from Shanghai, and Shi Yi, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Microbiology, at a regular press conference held by the State Council’s Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism at Guo’erzhao Guest House in Beijing, on Thursday afternoon local time.

State Council info,
click photo for source

Main link: State Council transcript

Pengpai News reporter [“The Paper”, Shanghai]:
Recently, foreign media have reported that the American military has restarted the biochemical base at Fort Derrick in Maryland. After the news, obtained by many people there, later began to emerge, America believes that there is a lot of evidence that the cause for the emergency closure of Fort Derrick biochemcial base last year in August was absolutely fishy, and it is believed that said virus may be the origin of the new coronavirus, and may also have created the autum-winter influenza epidemic. After that, said virus [is said to have] occured in China again, as a variation of the virus, because of US military taking part in the Wuhan 2019 Military World Games. May I ask how the experts view this issue? Thank you.

[澎湃新闻记者]近期,有境外媒体报道美军重启为马里兰州的德特里克堡生化研究基地,那里很多民众得到消息以后开始外逃,美国认为有多个证据表明,德特里克堡生化研究基地去年8月被紧急关闭的原因十分蹊跷,认为该疾病可能是新冠病毒的源头,并在美国造成秋冬季节流感大流行,之后病毒通过参加武汉军人运动员美国军人在中国发生变异后再次暴发,请问台上专家如何看待这个问题?谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:02

Shi Yi:
Thank you for your question. Actually, we are have noticed the related information of this idea on the internet, too, about Americans suspecting that Fort Derrick biochemical base may be the source of the new coronavirus. There hasn’t been a public American response, and we have no way of judging this. Investigating the origins of a virus science in itself, whose main objective is to avoid another outbreak of similar epidemic situations, causing harm to humankind. Currently, scientists from all countries of the world are researching the origins of the virus, and they have put forward numerous learned points of views and hypothesis and guesses. Chinese scientists have also carried out conscientious relevant research, so as to find the origins of the new coronavirus as soon as possible, with a focus on good prevention and control, and to provide a scientific basis.

[施一]谢谢这位记者的提问。其实,我们注意到互联网上相关信息,美国有人怀疑德特里克堡生化研究基地可能是新冠病毒来源的说法,美国方面对此没有公开回应,我们无从做出判断。病毒溯源本身是科学问题,其主要目的是防止再次发生同类疫情对人类社会造成危害。目前,世界各国科学家都在开展病毒源头的研究,对新冠病毒的来源提出了许多学术观点及假设、猜想。中国科学家目前也在认真开展相关研究,为早日找到新冠病毒的起源,有针对性的做好防控,提供科学依据。

Still Shi Yi:
As seen from the process of tracing the origins of tracing a virus, this is a scientific problem that requires a relatively long time and comes with uncertainties. It will take quite a chain of biological information and epidemiological evidence put together, confirming each other, to really complete this task. Many viral diseases in human history, such as AIDS, SARS etc. have required decade-long searches for their origins, but although there has been progress, all results are speculative, without a final answer, research is still continuing. The current new corona pneumonia is wreaking havoc on the entire world, and hopefully, all countries of the world will focus their energy and attention on the major work of prevention and control. The scientific issue of tracing the origins of the virus will require deep research by scientists from all countries. Thank you.

从病毒溯源的科学研究全过程来看,这是一项科学难题,需要较长时间而且存在不确定性,需要将众多生物学信息和流行病学证据汇聚成相互印证的证据链,才能真正完成任务。人类历史上很多疾病比如艾滋病、SARS等,对其源头的探索历经十几年甚至几十年的研究,虽然取得了进展,但研究结果仅是推测,尚未得出最终的答案,研究工作至今仍在继续。当前新冠肺炎疫情正在全球肆虐,希望世界各国把精力和关注点集中放在疫情防控重点工作上,病毒溯源这一科学难题需要各国科学家深入研究。谢谢。2020-04-23 15:34:29

Saturday, April 18, 2020

“National People’s Congress” Standing Committee Chairpersons’ Meeting

The scheduled meeting late in April should not be confused with the “National People’s Congress” plenary session. There are reports however that the standing committee’s meeting from April 26 – 29 may decide when to hold the NPC plenary session, and the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference”.

Both bodies’ sessions usually take place annually in March, but were postponed this year, because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Links within blockquote added during translation.

Xinwen Lianbo coverage,
click photo for video

Main Link: Li Zhanshu presided over the convention of the standing committee’s vice persons’ meeting, …

Li Zhanshu presided over the convention of the standing committee’s vice chairpersons‘ meeting, 13th NPC standing committee to meet from April 26 to 29

栗战书主持召开十三届全国人大常委会第五十次委员长会议 决定十三届全国人大常委会第十七次会议4月26日至29日在京举行

Xinhua, Beijing, April 17 — the 13th National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s 15th chairpersons’ meeting was held in Beijing in the morning of April 17 in the Great Hall of the People. [NPC chairman] Li Zhanshu presided over the meeting. The meeting decided that the 13th National People’s Congress’ Standing Committee’s 17th meeting will be held in Beijing from April 26 to April 29.

新华社北京4月17日电 十三届全国人大常委会第五十次委员长会议17日上午在北京人民大会堂举行,栗战书委员长主持。会议决定,十三届全国人大常委会第十七次会议4月26日至29日在北京举行。

The chairpersons’ meeting suggested that the 13th National People’s Congress Standing Committee’s 17th meeting should deliberate solid-wastes pollution prevention law revision amendment drafts, the National People’s Congress Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee’s proposed animal disease prevention law revision draft, the State Council’s proposed copyright amendment draft, and the Central Military Commission’s proposed People’s Military Police Law revision draft.

委员长会议建议,十三届全国人大常委会第十七次会议审议固体废物污染环境防治法修订草案、公职人员政务处分法草案、生物安全法草案;审议全国人大农业与农村委员会关于提请审议动物防疫法修订草案的议案;审议国务院关于提请审议著作权法修正案草案的议案;审议中央军事委员会关于提请审议人民武装警察法修订草案的议案。

The chairpersons’ meeting suggested that the Standing Committee’s 17th meeting should deliberate authorization of the State Council’s China (Hainan) Pilot Free Trade Zone temporary adjustment and implementation legislation and regulations draft, deliberate and pass the “PRC and Islamic Republic of Pakistan treaty on the transfer of sentenced persons” proposal, the State Council’s 2019 environment situation and environment protection goals complete situation, handling of water pollution prevention and law enforcement and inspection report, the report on rural collective property rights institutional reform, the [National People’s Congress’] Standing Committee’s Legal Systems and Institutions working committee’s report on strengthening public health legal safeguarding legislation work report, the report on the qualifications of National People’s Congress Standing Committee members’ qualification to examine individual representatives’ qualifications, to deliberate and pass the Central Military Commissions’ proposal to add People’s Liberation Army Election Committee Members, to deliberate related appointments and dismissals, etc..

委员长会议建议,常委会第十七次会议审议国务院关于提请审议关于授权国务院在中国(海南)自由贸易试验区暂时调整实施有关法律规定的决定草案的议案、关于提请审议批准《中华人民共和国和巴基斯坦伊斯兰共和国关于移管被判刑人的条约》的议案;审议国务院关于2019年度环境状况和环境保护目标完成情况与研究处理水污染防治法执法检查报告及审议意见情况的报告、关于农村集体产权制度改革情况的报告;审议全国人大常委会法制工作委员会关于强化公共卫生法治保障立法修法工作有关情况和工作计划的报告;审议全国人大常委会代表资格审查委员会关于个别代表的代表资格的报告;审议中央军事委员会关于提请审议批准增补人民解放军选举委员会成员的议案;审议有关任免案等。

At the chairpersons’ meeting, National People’s Congress Standing Committee secretary-general Yang Zhenwu gave a summary report on the 17th Standing Committee meeting’s agenda draft and schedule arrangements. National People’s Congress Standing Committee relevant deputy secretary-generals, National People’s Congress relevant special committees and people in charge of the Standing committee’s relevant working committees gave summary reports on topics relevant for the 17th Standing Committee’s meeting.

委员长会议上,全国人大常委会秘书长杨振武就常委会第十七次会议议程草案和日程安排等作了汇报。全国人大常委会有关副秘书长,全国人大有关专门委员会、常委会有关工作委员会负责人就常委会第十七次会议有关议题作了汇报。

The chairpersons also deliberated the 2019 National People’s Congress Standing Committee organization staff’s report on contacting the National People’s Congress delegates.

委员长会议还审议了2019年全国人大常委会组成人员联系全国人大代表工作情况的报告。

National People’s Congress Standing Committee vice chairpersons Wang Chen, Cao Jianming, Zhang Chunxian, Shen Yueyue, Ji Bingxuan, Arken Imirbaki, Wan Exiang, Chen Zhu, Wang Dongming, Padma Choling, Ding Zhongli, Hao Mingjin, Cai Dafeng and Wu Weihua attended the meeting.

全国人大常委会副委员长王晨、曹建明、张春贤、沈跃跃、吉炳轩、艾力更·依明巴海、万鄂湘、陈竺、王东明、白玛赤林、丁仲礼、郝明金、蔡达峰、武维华出席会议。

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Related

Non-party members (dangwai), Jan 31, 2011
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Monday, April 13, 2020

Have a Guess why WHO Director-General Tedros thinks he’s right

First off, I want you to know that I have signed this petition, and that I would like to encourage you to sign it, too. My main reason to ask for Dr. Tedros’ resignation is that he supports a policy of locking more than 20 million Taiwanese people out of the World Health Organization (WHO). That scandal didn’t start with his tenure, and has been WHO policy for a long time, but it is now exacting a price in terms of global health. Taiwan could share its eperience in a so far successful fight against COVID-19. Taiwan could also contribute financially. Taiwan seems to have warned the WHO on December 31, in an email query to the organization. And the WHO leadership appears to be unwilling to take this into account and make a wiser decision than in the past.

I don’t feel a personal dislike for Tedros, and I think that many “social media” remarks about him are inappropriate, and actually false assertions.

But every public official must be accountable to the people he serves, or claims to serve. That’s why I believe that the WHO’s director general should clear the way for a successor with a more inclusive policy than his.

It doesn’t help when people insult each other. Above all, character assassination blinds for the more likely facts and factors in political processes. Both sides are wrong when accusing each other of “politicizing” issues. WHO is inevitably about politics, because it depends on the funding of governments with very different interests, and different economic capabilities to contribute to the WHO’s work. The demands of the world’s poorest, as elementary and obvious as they may be, are also political. And China’s cover-up approach is political, too. Everything is politics – that’s no suitable swearword to use for either WHO officials, or their critics.

It is true however that when you look at the mere numbers – in million US-$ -, China’s influence on the WHO doesn’t seem to make sense:

member state fees1) voluntary2)   total
USA 57.9 401.1 459.0
China 28.7 16.9 45.6
Japan 20.5 46.7 67.2
Germany 14.6 89.9 104.5
United Kingdom 10.9 163.7 174.6

Then why the WHO’s understatement when China covered up their SARS-2 cases, why the blind eyes to Taiwan’s warning query in December 31 (not to mention the WHO’s discrimination of Taiwan in general), and why the WHO director-general’s generally meek interaction with Beijing?

  • Trump is toying with the idea of reducing America’s contributions. Any WHO director general has to plan ahead, especially when the organizations main stakeholder becomes unreliable.
  • Tedros is probably convinced that he is doing the right thing by chumming up to China. Losing people to disease is unacceptable for him, and that much is credible. There is no way that WHO can enforce transparency on the ground – be it in China, be it in any other countries, though smaller countries may be more susceptible to pressure. And conceited leaders (like China’s) are more susceptible to flattery. (That, of course, doesn’t make it right to help them downplay a crisis, neither knowingly nor unknowingly. But it may become a more understandable approach, when you keep in mind that understanding something isn’t the same thing as condoning it.)
  • Then there is a – supposed – trend. While Taiwan would probably contribute as much today as does China, it could be different in future. That’s what most in the global political class expect to happen. They may have to think again – China is regularly overestimated. While questionable statistics have often help its image among foreigners, forgery will backfire when it does damage to the faithful foreigners’ home countries. (Never mind a million “extremist” inmates in Chinese internment camps – that’s far, far away.)

It makes no sense to demonize Tedros. He isn’t much different from most national or business leaders when it comes to dealing with China. The difference of course is that national leaders are usually held accountable, sometimes more, sometimes less, but more so than heads of international institutions. That’s why African politicians do criticize China for the way Africans have been treated in Guangzhou, while Tedros, who had shortly before tried to mobilize African public opinion in his favor and against “Taiwanese racism” remains oddly silent now.

But of course, it makes no sense to defend Tedros’ policies, either.

I would still prefer some civility in the effort to make him go. One doesn’t need to hate or disdain a man who oppose him. Rather, you can oppose him more effectively when you try to understand him and his supporters.
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Notes

1) Source for obligatory contributions
2) Source for voluntary contributions
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Friday, April 3, 2020

Flying high and low: Radio Taiwan International’s French and Spanish Services return to Shortwave

The transmission site is important,
but a welcoming set of wires won’t hurt either,
especially if you want to listen to the programs
for Latin America from Europe

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) is putting its French and Spanish services back on the air, after an absence of two years. The French programs are broadcast every night at 19:00 to 19:30 UTC on 6005 kHz via Kostinbrod (Bulgaria), for northern Africa and Europe. There are news bulletins at the beginning of every transmission (except, possibly, on Saturdays and Sundays when those first ten minutes may be used for cultural or other programs).

RTI’s Spanish service will be back on air on April 6, i. e. this coming Monday, with transmissions for South America from 01:00 to 01:30 UTC on 5800 kHz, for Central America and Cuba from 02:00 to 02:30 UTC on 5010 kHz, and for Europe from 22:00 to 23:00 UTC on 7780 kHz. (Time UTC means Sunday night, April 5, local time in Latin America.)

The Spanish test transmissions were apparently all carried out by Radio WRMI (Radio Miami International) in Okeechobee, Florida, so that should be the case with the regular transmissions starting on April 6, too.

The decision to make more use of shortwave again was reportedly taken by a new director general at RTI , a man named Chang Cheng (張正) who has apparently been at the helm of Taiwan’s international broadcaster since some time in summer, 2019.

Chang appears to be enthusiastic about shortwave. This isn’t the first time that he is involved with broadcasting, he wrote in November last year, but while he used to think of broadcasting as a rather simple affair – “you speak, you record it, your voice goes on the air, and that’s that” (在錄音室錄完就大功告成,聲音就出去了), he has since learned that this had been a rather low-key description:

Once the recording is done, there’s post-production, once that is done, your voice has to go on air. How can it be transmitted? At RTI, for example, the recording, made at RTI’s main building in Taipei, has to be transmitted from the iron tower on the Taipei building’s roof on microwave, to the microwave station on the top of Yuanshan mountain, and, flying high and low, across buildings and mountain ranges, exit the Taipei Basin, to reach another microwave station there. Several relays later, it arrives at the targeted substation.*)

錄音結束,還要後製,後製完成,還要把聲音送出去。怎麼送?以央廣為例,在台北總台錄製的節目,必須透過屋頂的發射鐵塔,以微波打向高據圓山山頭的微波站,再居高臨下地越過高樓大廈、越過層層山巒,送到台北盆地之外的微波站。經過幾個微波站的接力,抵達各地分台。

The real task awaits us here: by the substation’s high-performance transmitters and all sorts of rigged antennas, the signal is carried out of Taiwan, on shortwave.

然後才是最難的部份:透過分台的高功率發射機與高聳的各式天線電塔,以短波的形式傳送到台灣境外。

Why the fuss? You say that in the internet age, you just have to put your voice on the internet and that will do? Not necessarily (pointing west without comment). Therefore, this sort of flying-pigeon message, the historic long-distance radio wave, reflected by the ionosphere, comes in handy.

幹嘛這麼費事?你說,網路時代,把聲音放上網路不就成了?這可不一定。你知道的,有些地方網路到不了(伸出食指默默指向西邊)。於是「短波」(Short Wave)這種有如飛鴿傳書、將無線電波藉由電離層反射的古老遠距傳輸技藝,就派上用場了。

Chang acknowledges that China jams such signals, but points out that jamming isn’t as watertight as the “great firewall” is.

That of course doesn’t explain why Africa, Europe, and Latin America have now become target areas for shortwave again. But the French department’s mailbag program, on February 15, quoted the management as saying that RTI needed to use all means of communications available to raise Taiwan’s profile, including shortwave.

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Notes

*) substation refers to the actual transmitter sites, such as Tamsui, or, in the past, Tianma substations.
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