- Why we think that the US does not need to worry too much right now about a nuclear strike from Russia
- The monkeypox outbreak is being investigated. The risk to the global population is supposed to be low for now but could rise in the summer
- Tonnes of baby formula have arrived in the US
Ukraine & the risk of Russian nukes
Even though the initial public fear has calmed down, I’m still getting lots of questions about whether the risk of nuclear war is real, how much to worry about it, etc.
Based on what I keep seeing from experts, there just isn’t much to justify worrying. Yes, the risks are higher than they were before Russia invaded Ukraine. But the risk is still relatively low. And it’s mostly focused on smaller “battlefield” nukes that will cause local harm — not the kind of world-ending Cold-War-style exchange you might be imagining.
Some reasons and research:
- Russia has a proven history of making nuclear threats but never following up with them.
- The Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security recently said that the US sees no signs so far that Russia has taken concrete steps toward deploying nuclear weapons.
- The CIA director agrees, stressing that the intelligence community has seen “no practical evidence” of Russia taking steps towards nukes. But, of course, they still advise caution.
- This sentiment is shared by Pyotr Topychkanov, (Associate Sr Researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and Sr Researcher at the Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences), who recently wrote “speculation that Russia could commit a nuclear strike is not based on real-world data.” and that “Russia continues to refer to the fighting in Ukraine as a special military operation. This status does not imply a general mobilization and it signals that, from Russia’s perspective, there is no legal basis for the use of nuclear weapons. As long as it remains a special operation, for Russia it is a local conflict with limited objectives and moderate risks.”
- The Center for European Policy Analysis believes that even if Putin feels backed into a corner / as if he’s failing to achieve his Ukraine objectives, he won’t respond by nuking, but will instead seek success elsewhere (Moldova? The Baltics?) and keep employing political warfare, assuming he’s not deposed by that point.
- Retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, chair of strategic studies at CEPA, said that “we have exaggerated the threat of the Kremlin using nuclear weapons and have made some policy decisions based on that exaggerated fear.”
- Retired U.S. Army Col. Sam Gardiner, a war games expert at the Naval War College and leading authority on military simulation, explains that even if nuclear weapons are deployed, they will likely be smaller “tactical” nukes that cause localized destruction. Certainly bad for the people of Ukraine and neighboring down-wind countries (where fallout could still be a problem), but not the immediate start of WW3 some fear.
- The “smaller nukes” idea reconciles with Putin’s past behavior. For example, he’s the one who rewrote Kremlin policy about a decade ago to state “yes, it’s possible to win a nuclear war if you use small nukes on specific targets.”
- If NATO were to respond, it probably won’t be with nukes of any size — after all, NATO wants to deescalate and avoid a MAD scenario. Obviously the response will be more proportional and serious if Russia were to nuke NATO land.
- Decent FAQs and factsheets from the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.
For sake of counterargument: Senator Mitt Romney penned a recent New York Times op-ed about why we should fear Russia’s ‘worst weapons.’
Unusual monkeypox outbreak
A monkeypox outbreak is worrying people and health officials in Europe, Canada, the US, and Australia. But the messaging out there is conflicting: some call for a high alert status, while others say there’s no reason to panic. Monkeypox is not considered a highly-transmissible disease, but this outbreak is unusual because the virus is spreading in countries where monkeypox is not endemic, such extensive person-to-person spread is not normal, and there is worry about undetected community spread. No deaths have been reported so far.
Monkeypox is usually transmitted by: heavy droplets, close contact, and fomites (infected objects, including clothing, bedding, and towels, as an example), but the CDC warns that airborne transmission is possible, too. It is not a sexually transmitted infection, but it can be passed during sex via skin-to-skin contact. It incubates for about one to two weeks and people without symptoms are not considered infectious. Symptoms are fever, achy muscles, swollen lymph nodes, exhaustion, and a rash. The rash begins as flat spots that turn into a bump, which then fills with fluid. The bumps crust and fall off as they heal.
The death rate of this strain seems to be 1%, but people usually recover within two to four weeks without the need for hospitalization although children are more at risk of severe disease and death. Whoever got a smallpox vaccine in the past is considered immune (although that immunity could be waning by now), but no one in the US has been vaccinated against it since ’72 (which could also explain why it would spread much more easily now). WHO worries the spread could accelerate during the summer months at festivals, concerts, or large gatherings. The US has a stockpile of vaccines available for those at risk, and there are effective smallpox antivirals that can be used against monkeypox.
How can you prepare for this:
- Don’t panic, but be cautious.
- Avoid contact with bedding and other materials contaminated with the virus.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after coming into contact with an infected animal, person, or object.
- Avoid contact with people who may be infected with the virus.
- Use personal protective equipment (PPE) when caring for people infected with the virus.
- And if the virus is also airborne, masking and social distancing should work. Considering that Covid is on the rise again, it’s not a bad idea to mask up again anyway. Just remember that if you are the only person wearing a mask, you’d rather wear a respirator instead.
We’ll keep an eye on this and when more details emerge, we’ll update our recommendations. Below’s a monkeypox tracker regularly updated:
— BNO Newsroom (@BNODesk) May 20, 2022
About 500,000 bottles worth of baby formula has arrived from Europe. More shipments should follow soon:
A @usairforce plane carrying enough infant #formula for >500K baby bottles arrived yesterday in #Indianapolis. This was first of several planned flights from the EU to help relieve the #formulashortage.https://t.co/nKZo8GOLXW
— Tatiana Prowell, MD (@tmprowell) May 23, 2022
Demand for food bank help in the US and Canada is at a pandemic high.
Indonesia will lift its palm oil export ban.
NERC warns of unexpected tripping of solar, cybersecurity threats, supply chain issues, and the potential for disruptive wildfires this summer.
Energy industry execs are indeed expecting an increase in cyberattacks over the next two years. 84% of energy executives expect that cyberattacks will lead to physical damage to energy assets.
Scientists just broke the record for the highest efficiency solar cell.
Earth’s radiant infrared heat can be used to generate electricity at night.
Four of the seven major climate indicators set “alarming” new records in 2021, the UN says. Greenhouse gas concentrations, sea-level rise, ocean heat levels, and acidification, all set new records in 2021.
Speaking of climate indicators (not as destructive as what the UN report found): Kyoto’s cherry blossoms are blooming earlier because of climate change. Last year, Kyoto’s cherry blossoms bloomed by 26 March, the earliest seen in more than 1,000 years of recorded history.
What progress has been made since Cop26?
Where’s the best place for me to retire? An interactive tool to decide where to retire which includes climate risks.
Starlink is war-proof:
Russia has completely failed to jam the Starlink connection used by the Azovstal garrison.
They had stable internet access until the final hours of their presence at the plant.
Russia’s super expensive radio-electric warfare tools couldn’t do anything about it.
Just a fact.
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) May 21, 2022
Speaking of Starlink, Musk is striking a deal with Brazil to connect 19,000 remote schools in the Amazon and help monitor illegal logging.
Back in January, a girl on an island east of Siberia survived a blizzard by hugging a stray dog for 18 hours. The storm caught her while she was playing outside. Fortunately, she was already dressed for the weather and temperatures were actually a “reasonably moderate” minus 5 C (23 F).