NFTs are a playground for crooks and grifters

NFT’s (Non-Fungible Tokens) are the new rage, riding the wave of the fascination with blockchain and cryptocurrency, two other things that do not seem to deter people from getting on the bandwagon even though they may have just the haziest idea of what they are. Naturally this leads to crooks moving in, selling NFTs of items that do not even belong to them.

When Lois van Baarle, a Dutch artist, scoured the biggest NFT marketplace for her name late last year, she found more than 100 pieces of her art for sale. None of them had been put up by her.

Van Baarle is a popular digital artist, with millions of followers on social media. She’s one of a growing number of artists who have had online images of their art stolen, minted as unique digital assets on a blockchain, and offered up to trade in cryptocurrency on the NFT platform OpenSea.
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Prince Andrew settles sexual abuse case against Virginia Giuffre

It appears that the lawyers for both sides have arrived at a settlement that will prevent the case from being litigated in court. Andrew had for the longest time vigorously denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight to clear his name of what he claimed were false allegations against him by Giuffre. You can read the short statement released y Giuffre’s lawyer David Boies here that says in its entirety:

Virginia Giuffre and Prince Andrew have reached an out of court settlement. The parties will file a stipulated dismissal upon Ms. Giuffre’s receipt of the settlement (the sum of which is not being disclosed). Prince Andrew intends to make a substantial donation to Ms. Giuffre’s charity in support of victims’ rights. Prince Andrew has never intended to malign Ms. Giuffre’s character, and he accepts that she has suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks. It is known that Jeffrey Epstein trafficked countless young girls over many years. Prince Andrew regrets his association with Epstein, and commends the bravery of Ms. Giuffre and other survivors in standing up for themselves and others. He pledges to demonstrate his regret for his association with Epstein by supporting the fight against the evils of sex trafficking, and by supporting its victims.

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US anti-vax virus spreads to Canada

I am somewhat baffled by the protests that have been talking place in the city center in Ottawa and the bridge to Detroit in Windsor Ontario where truckers and people in RVs and have been blocking streets for weeks now. The police finally moved in to clear the Windsor-Detroit bridge which opened today and it looks like they are beginning to clear the Ottawa streets too. Meanwhile prime minister Justin Trudeau has invoked emergency powers to be used of necessary.

So who are these protestors? Some of them are protesting the covid-19 restrictions that are still in place but others seem to be anti-vaxxers whom one would think would be a fairly insignificant presence since Canada has one of the highest covid-19 vaccination rates in the world, around 90%. But it seems like these people are similar to the anti-vaxxers in the US, very loud and angry though small in numbers and consist of the usual suspects that we find here.
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Guinea worm disease almost eradicated

We need to celebrate the successes on the infectious diseases front and there has been a huge one that has been overshadowed by the focus on covid-19.There are many diseases that are water borne and create immense suffering to people who do not have access to clean water. One of those diseases is caused by the guinea worm. The good news is that tremendous strides have been made in combating it.

While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world, another disease could be on its way out. Only 14 cases of infection with Guinea worm – a parasite that causes painful skin lesions – were reported in humans in 2021.

This is the lowest tally ever for an infection that, as recently as the 1980s, was found in more than 20 countries and infected 3.5 million people a year (see ‘On the way out’) – however, a remaining reservoir for the parasite in animals means eradication could be a while off, if indeed it is possible, say some scientists.

“It’s pretty amazing,” says Adam Weiss, director of the Guinea Worm Eradication Program of the Carter Center, which is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The centre announced the numbers in late January. “Fourteen people on a planet of almost eight billion. It’s mind-bending to think about.”

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The disturbing allure of the N-word for some people

The N-word is a horrible slur. Like all other slurs that are used as synonyms for people’s ethnicity, sexuality, gender, and gender identity, it is used to demean people. They are not words that I think anyone should use, the only exception being in highly academic contexts where the words themselves are the subject of study and one needs to use them to avoid ambiguity or when people who belong to the group being described derogatorily use the words in an attempt to defang them.

But it does seem to be the case that there are people who are not Black who relish the opportunity to use the N-word. The word seems to have an allure for them that they cannot resist and they seem to seize any opportunity to use it and even go to the extent of creating opportunities for them to use it, while trying to act as if the context makes it acceptable. I have written before about how filmmaker Quentin Tarantino seems to absolutely delight in using the word in his films and even plays a part in the film Pulp Fiction where his character throws the word around. (Incidentally, whenever I write a post that castigates Tarantino, I get responses from his fans who assert that he is some kind film making genius and that I am too stupid to understand the humor and subtlety. These fans are as passionate about their idol as are fans of Sam Harris.)
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Rebuilding in-person events

The pandemic put paid to many in-person social events, such as concerts, theaters, clubs, churches, etc. While many shifted to doing things online, when the pandemic looked like it was easing last summer and these organizations looked to go back to in-person events, they found that many people resisted coming back, either because they feared getting infected or because they found that doing things online was more convenient for them. But this has had a negative financial impact on the organizations.

That is definitely the case for my local bridge club, which is the only social organization to which I belong. It generates revenue to pay the rent and other expenses by charging a table fee for each participant. When the pandemic hit, online bridge tournaments exploded but while those too charge a fee, those provide little or no revenue for the local clubs. When the pandemic seemed to be easing, some people returned to play face-to-face but nowhere near the numbers before and this has resulted in a financial hit for the club.
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Perfect adherence to principles is not always possible

For reasons that are not clear to me, there are omnivores who get defensive when they encounter vegetarians or vegans. There seems to be a sense that members of the two groups are smug and superior and preachy about their dietary practices when in my own experience, and I know many people who are one or the other, they are not. It seems like some omnivores feel the need to defend their meat eating in some way. An indication of this defensiveness is the impulse to question the purity of the commitment of the vegetarian or vegan pointing out that they might be wearing leather shoes or something like that.
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Moving Away from the Authoritarian Classroom by Mano Singham

I feel that whatever subject we are assigned to teach, an underlying goal should be to also prepare students to be active participants in a democratic society. And yet, it is undoubtedly the case that during the most formative period in their lives, K-16 education, young people are immersed in an authoritarian system that gives them little control or decision making powers. In short, we seem to be training them to think of authoritarian systems as the norm. I was very much guilty of being part of that system until I started reading about the nature of education and after that I proceeded to change my teaching practices to make them as democratic as I could.

I tried to understand how and why our classrooms have become so authoritarian and felt that it was symptomatic of the breakdown of trust in the student-teacher relationship. I wrote about that and the changes I made and my experiences in an article that I published in Change Magazine, vol. 37, no.3, May/June 2005, p. 50-57.

Moving Away from the Authoritarian Classroom

Winter Olympic disasters

I do not follow the Olympics but have seen many headlines concerning the current games in China saying that some highly regarded competitors have had ‘wipeouts’, meaning spectacular falls. I looked it up to see what was going on and from what I saw in the clips below, it seems like the winter Olympics events are a hell of a lot more dangerous than the ones in the summer Olympics, apart from the curling events of course.

Skiers can reach speeds of around 150 mph while people in the luge event are going down a narrow tubular track feet first at speeds of around 80 mph. Even in slow motion it looks scary. The slightest misjudgment and you could have a very nasty, even life-threatening, accident. That requires a considerable level of mental toughness to overcome one’s natural fears.
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