Transcript: Kate Atkinson

Oh my! Didn’t this one surreptitiously infiltrate onto my device clandestinely. I don’t remember ever having heard of this author, much less installing it on my device.

Oh my! Erudition! Intelligence! Bon mots! Clever turns of phrase! A superb sense of time and place!

And of course, the sublime Juliet Armstrong: orphan, romantic, thief, inveterate liar, unhappy virgin, free with her charms, spy, loyal friend, completely selfish, spunky, devil may care, murderess [yes, that’s a spoiler, but Ms Atkinson saves a much larger surprise ending that I had not one iota was coming].

Superb bibliography. With the ‘right’ books (my grad degree is in the History of Intelligence during this time period, so I know which ones are which).

I sincerely hope Ms Atkinson will see fit to provide me with an invitation to be part of Juliet Armstrong’s fascination life again.

I’ll be waiting.

Juliet….Juliet…wherefore art thou?

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Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth/Reza Aslan

Aslan states that his purpose in writing the book was to write the history of Jesus the man, as opposed to Jesus the Christ (messiah).

If so, he’s failed. Most of the sources are still religious (only loosely referenced). The non-religious sources are much less frequent and have no reference or provenance provided.

Large parts of the book deal with the church and other early leaders, having nothing to do with the mortal Jesus whatsoever.

Nemesis Games: James SA Corey

While the Rocinante is undergoing a re-fit, the crew all goes off individually and we get to see them when they’re not part of their whole. Interesting, but even more satisfying when they all get back together again.

More individual back stories satisfyingly being filled in, even if the whole Free Navy success timeline is patently absurd.

Elephant Queen

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/rare-elephant-pictures-kenya/index.html

Incredible pictures capture rare ‘Elephant Queen’ in Kenya
Francesca Street, CNN • Updated 14th March 2019

Incredible photos: Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took these striking shots of a rare “big tusker” elephant in Kenya.
Courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas / @willbl
Towering high above the Kenyan landscape, this female elephant is huge, her long tusks curving right down to the ground.
Known as a “big tusker” she’s a rare and extraordinary sight — it’s estimated that fewer than 30 of these animals still exist in Africa.
British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas captured a series of black-and-white photographs of this animal — who he calls the Elephant Queen — roaming in the natural landscape around Kenya’s Tsavo National Park.
He took the images in partnership with the Tsavo Trust, a local not-for-profit group, over a few visits in the hope of raising awareness about the animals.
“It was just incredible,” Burrard-Lucas tells CNN Travel. “Especially in this day and age where these elephants with long tusks are so rare.”

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took these striking shots of a rare “big tusker” elephant in Kenya.
Courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas / @willbl
Burrard-Lucas spent some time living in Tanzania as a child, which sparked his interest in wildlife photography.
“My earliest memories are of safari and wildlife and ever since those days I’ve had this passion for the natural world,” he says.

Burrard-Lucas worked in partnership with the Tsavo Trust to take the pictures
Courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas / @willbl
He took the images of the elephant with a contraption known as the “Beetlecam” which allows him to get close-up photographs of wildlife in its natural habitat.
“Over the years I’ve used it on various projects, and for this project, it’s really to show and emphasize the size of these animals,” he adds.

Burrard-Lucas wants his images to promote wildlife conservation.
Courtesy Will Burrard-Lucas / @willbl
“I hope people are inspired to care about the natural world and, if they want to, to support organizations like the Tsavo Trust who are working so well to keep these animals protected.”

These elephants are increasingly rare, it’s estimated that fewer than 20 remain in Africa.

The photographs will be the subject of a book — conceived by the Tsavo Trust as a means of raising awareness and funds — called “Land of Giants” and featuring 150 shots of the elephants of Tsavo.
The main subject of Burrard-Lucas’ photographs is an elephant known as F_MU1 — shortly after he took his last shot, she died of natural causes.

Burrard-Lucas took the photographs with a contraption he invented called “Beetlecam.”

In a post on his blog, the photographer says F_MU1 had experienced periods of poaching and it’s a miracle she lived through these traumatic experiences.
Still, Burrard-Lucas hopes the photographs carry an uplifting message.
“I find [the photos] inspiring to look at because it’s just very positive and inspiring to think that elephants like this are still out there — they haven’t been hunted or poached,” he says.

The photos will be the subject of a book called “Land of Giants.”

The Tsavo Trust works together with the Kenya Wildlife Service to provide support in conservation efforts — including anti-poaching patrols.
This isn’t the first time Burrard-Lucas’ photos have hit the headlines — he previously took a photograph of a rare black leopard, which was shared widely online.
The photographer says that elephants with tusks like the one are even rarer than the black leopard.

Internet inventor says his invention not what he wanted it to be at 30

At 30, World Wide Web is ‘not the web we wanted,’ inventor says

GENEVA — The inventor of the World Wide Web knows his revolutionary innovation is coming of age, and doesn’t always like what he sees: state-sponsored hacking, online harassment, hate speech and misinformation among the ills of its “digital adolescence.”

Tim Berners-Lee issued a cri-de-coeur letter and spoke to a few reporters Monday on the eve of the 30-year anniversary of his first paper with an outline of what would become the web — a first step toward transforming countless lives and the global economy.

Speaking at a “Web@30” conference, Berners-Lee acknowledged that for those who are online, “the web is not the web we wanted in every respect.”

Late last year, a key threshold was crossed — roughly half the world has gotten online. Today some 2 billion websites exist.

The anniversary offers “an opportunity to reflect on how far we have yet to go,” Berners-Lee said, calling the “fight” for the web “one of the most important causes of our time.”

He is convinced the online population will continue to grow, but says accessibility issues continue to beset much of the world.

“Look at the 50 per cent who are on the web, and it’s not so pretty for them,” he said. “They are all stepping back suddenly horrified after the Trump and Brexit elections realizing that this web thing that they thought was so cool has actually not necessarily been serving humanity very well.”

The anniversary is also a nod to the innovative, collaborative and open-source mindset at the Geneva-based CERN, where physicists smash particles together to unlock secrets of science and the universe.

As a young English software engineer, Berners-Lee came up with the idea for hypertext-transfer protocol — the “http” that adorns web addresses — and other building blocks for the web while working at CERN in March 1989. Some trace the actual start of the web to 1990, when he released the first web browser.

Berners-Lee reminisced about how he was really out to get disparate computer systems to talk to one another, and resolve the “burning frustration” over a “lack of interoperability” of documentation from disparate computing systems used at CERN in the late 1980s.

Now, the hope of his World Wide Web Foundation is to enlist governments, companies, and citizens to take a greater role in shaping the web for good under principles laid out in its “Contract for the Web.”

Under the contract’s sweeping, broad ambition, governments are supposed to make sure everyone can connect to the internet, to keep it available and to respect privacy. Companies are to make the internet affordable, respect privacy and develop technology that will put people — and the “public good” — first. Citizens are to create and to co-operate and respect “civil discourse,” among other things.

To Berners-Lee, the web is a “mirror of humanity” where “you will see good and bad.”

“The Contract for the Web recognizes that whether humanity, in fact, is constructive or not actually depends on the way you write the code of the social network,” he said.

Some tough regulation may be necessary in some places, in others not, Berners-Lee said.

On one issue, he’s insistent: “Net neutrality — strong regulation,” Berners-Lee said, hammering a fist on the table. He was alluding to a principle that anyone with an internet connection should have equal access to video, music, email, photos, social networks, maps and other online material.

Berners-Lee said the web has created opportunity, made lives easier and given the marginalized a voice, but “it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crime easier to commit.”

Ultimately, his “Contract” proposal is not about “quick fixes,” but a process for shifting people’s relationship with the online world, he said.

“It’s our journey from digital adolescence to a more mature, responsible and inclusive future,” he wrote.

Special K

https://lethbridgeherald.com/news/world-news/2019/03/05/fda-allows-treatment-of-depression-with-club-drugs-cousin/

FDA allows treatment of depression with club drug’s cousin

BY MATTHEW PERRONE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ON MARCH 5, 2019.
Spravato, a mind-altering medication related to the club drug Special K, won U.S. approval Tuesday, March 5, 2019, for patients with hard-to-treat depression, the first in a series of long-overlooked substances being reconsidered for severe forms of mental illness. (Janssen Global Services via AP)
WASHINGTON – A mind-altering medication related to the club drug Special K won U.S. approval Tuesday for patients with hard-to-treat depression, the first in a series of long-overlooked substances being reconsidered for severe forms of mental illness.

The nasal spray from Johnson & Johnson is a chemical cousin of ketamine, which has been used for decades as a powerful anesthetic to prepare patients for surgery. In the 1990s, the medication was adopted as a party drug by the underground rave culture due to its ability to produce psychedelic, out-of-body experiences. More recently, some doctors have given ketamine to people with depression without formal FDA approval.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Spravato as a fast-acting treatment for patients who have failed to find relief with at least two antidepressants. Up to 7.4 million American adults suffer from so-called treatment-resistant depression, which heightens the risk of suicide, hospitalization and other serious harm, according to the FDA.

The drug will cost between $590 and $885 depending on the dosage and before various insurance discounts and rebates.

There have been no major pharmaceutical innovations for depression since the launch of Prozac and related antidepressants in the late 1980s. Those drugs target the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, and can take weeks or months to kick in.

Ketamine and J&J’s version work differently than those drugs, targeting a chemical called glutamate that is thought to restore brain connections that help relieve depression.

When the drug works, its effect is almost immediate. That speed “is a huge thing because depressed patients are very disabled and suffer enormously,” said Dr. John Mann, a psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University. If the drug doesn’t work, physicians can quickly switch to other options, he noted.

The FDA approved Spravato, known chemically as esketamine, based on study results that showed patients taking the drug experienced a bigger improvement in their depression levels than patients taking a sham treatment, when measured with a psychiatric questionnaire.

The drug is designed to be lower-dose and easier to use than ketamine, which is normally given as an intravenous infusion.

Robin Prothro, 60, began taking antidepressants more than 20 years ago. But she says none of the five medications she tried relieved the depression that has stymied her personal and professional life.

Since enrolling in a Spravato trial two years ago, Prothro says her depression has lifted and she’s returned to hobbies she abandoned years ago, like gardening.

She takes the drug every two weeks at her psychiatrist’s office while reclining in a comfortable chair.

“You can feel it coming on, it’s a strong drug,” she said, describing colours and shapes that drift before her eyes. “I just let the drug work. I close my eyes and my mind is amazingly quiet.”

PSYCHEDELICS RECONSIDERED

The ketamine-like drug is the first of several psychoactive substances making their way through the U.S. regulatory process as physicians search further afield for new therapies. Researchers are conducting late-stage trials of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, and MDMA, a euphoria-inducing club drug, as potential treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Substantially different agents are only rarely appearing from pharmaceutical companies or other laboratories,” said Dr. Paul Summergrad, a psychiatrist at Tufts University. “That’s prompting people to investigate other compounds.”

Unlike ketamine, psilocybin and MDMA have no legal medical use. Classified in the same category as heroin and LSD, they are tightly restricted by the federal government. But the FDA’s approval of esketamine could smooth their path.

BURDEN OF DEPRESSION

Depression is among the leading causes of disability in the U.S. and is being closely monitored by health authorities amid rising suicides nationwide. In 2017, the U.S. suicide rate rose to 14 deaths per 100,000 people, the highest rate in at least 50 years, according to federal records.

Government officials haven’t suggested an explanation for the trend, though academic researchers point to the nation’s widening income gap, financial struggles and divisive politics.

J&J’s drug will be subject to a number of restrictions due to its abuse potential, side effects and lingering safety questions.

The drug will only be given by accredited specialists who must monitor patients for at least two hours after administration, due to its trippy, disorienting effects. Additionally, all patients will be tracked in a registry to monitor long-term safety and effectiveness.

The immediate impact of ketamine is thought to last just four to seven days and there’s no consensus yet on how long patients can benefit from ongoing treatment.

Still, there are few other options for patients who fail to respond to antidepressants. The most effective treatment in such cases, electroshock therapy, requires patients to be fully sedated and can cause persistent memory loss.

Wall Street has high expectations for J&J’s medication, with analysts predicting more than $600 million in annual sales by 2022. But J&J will face competition in the marketplace.

A decades-old drug, ketamine is already used off-label to treat depression by some doctors. At least 150 clinics around the U.S. provide treatment with various forms of the drug, which is available as a low-cost generic. Patients often pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for intravenous infusions of the drug over several weeks or months. Such therapies are generally not covered by insurance because they haven’t been approved as safe and effective by FDA regulators.

Some doctors plan to offer both ketamine and the new J&J drug.

Dr. Steve Levine says having FDA-approved standards for dosing and administering the new drug should raise standards in the field and drive out some of the bad actors who are not qualified to treat depression.

“This is going to bring in some standards, regulation and it’s going to make it safer and more accessible to patients,” said Levine, who serves as vice-president of the American Society of Ketamine Physicians, a group representing doctors, nurses and others using ketamine for treating depression or other nonapproved uses.

___

AP Medical Writer Lindsey Tanner contributed to this story.