Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Miscellaneous. Show all posts

21 March 2021

History Repeats Itself: From The New Testament To QAnon

History Repeats Itself: From The New Testament To QAnon
Although a product of the current cultural environment, QAnon also reproduces trends and dynamics from the earliest history of Christianity. (Shutterstock)

QAnon’s cryptic predictions read like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel. In the science fiction author’s book, Valis, the protagonist experiences visions he interprets as revelations about alien intelligence, political scandal and secret wisdom. The book was inspired by Dick’s own experiences and contains imagery drawn from early Christian gnostic groups — loosely organized religious and philosophical movements — that claimed to possess special knowledge about the true nature of the universe.

For the followers of QAnon, an equally gnostic vision of reality is unveiled through obscure remarks from their online oracle.

Although debated by modern scholars, the basic premise of the gnostic worldview is that reality is not what it appears. Ancient gnostics believed that the world we perceive is, in fact, a prison constructed by demonic powers to enslave the soul and that only a small spiritual elite are blessed with special knowledge — or gnosis — that enables them to unmask this deception.

A revisionist reading of reality, in which social and political events are only understood by a chosen few, is the basis of the QAnon gospel. Yet, it is also a worldview driven by long-standing religious impulses clearly evident to historians of early Christianity.

QAnon followers today

QAnon followers — predominately Donald Trump supporters and conservative Christians — appear to believe that the real cause of this past year’s crisis was an underground religious war being waged by U.S. soldiers against legions of Illuminati demons.

They believe that these beings torture and abuse children in order to procure a highly addictive drug called adrenochrome used by liberal and Hollywood elites. Building on the Pizzagate conspiracy theory of 2016, this belief has now morphed into a more expansive “end of the world” narrative.

Much of it reads like science fiction.

The QAnon story casts Trump as a kind of radical Christian ruler, deputized by God to wage war against the liberal infidels destroying a once great and holy nation. Followers believe that the former president’s tweets were not chaotic ramblings, but in fact the words of a Christian oracle, the meaning of which only true believers can decipher through online message boards.

QAnon is a curious mixture of sex scandal, anti-government protest, science fiction, biblical religion and military ethos. These ingredients make for a uniquely American religion and manifest the “cult” of Trump in its most extreme form. All of this seems incredible, even amusing, except for that fact that QAnon is tearing apart families and poisoning American politics.

A woman holds up a sign with a QAnon message. (Shutterstock)

A look at the history

Although very much a product of the current cultural environment, QAnon also reproduces trends and dynamics from the earliest history of Christianity.

In particular, the first Christians also viewed their world as a cosmic battleground and struggled to interpret an often violent and chaotic social context. Like QAnon today, some early Christians speculated about overturning their contemporary socio-political order using imagery of demons and holy war. For example, we might look to the Apocalypse of John, the final book of the New Testament and the first surviving early Christian “apocalyptic” text.

Biblical scholars have long understood that this work is an encoded, first century C.E. attack against Roman imperial power, yet, John’s apocalypse has often been interpreted as a scriptural key to how the world will end.

The earliest Christian readers of the New Testament thought that the end of times was imminent and, ever since, Christian groups have periodically arisen to proclaim that the hour is at hand, only to be disappointed.

Usually, such millenarian sects appear in times of crisis and instability, and are often unpredictable. Millenarianism is a recurring belief in religious, social or political groups about the coming fundamental transformation of society, after which “all things will be changed.” In fact, the Apocalypse of John was not widely accepted into the emerging New Testament until well into the fourth century C.E. Many early Christian leaders thought the text encouraged extremist sectarian impulses that the institutional church found difficult to control.

Inevitable immolation

QAnon is not so much a “church” (in a sociological sense) but a loosely connected network of online commentators. Even though it was birthed in a matrix of evangelical fundamentalism and Republican extremism, QAnonners are under no recognizable institutional framework.

They themselves might assert that their so-called “White Hats represent an organized military force carrying out complex operations in an underground war. It is important to recognize that QAnon is more than just a “conspiracy theory” or fringe political movement: it has all the hallmarks of a new religious movement, one that manifests deeply rooted tendencies in sectarian Christianities from the past.

Few religious sects successfully transition to stabilized religions. Most burn themselves out. Unfortunately, the nearly inevitable immolation that occurs often consumes more than just the believers themselves.

About Today's Contributor:

Timothy Pettipiece, Assistant Professor, Carleton University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

18 March 2021

How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions [Video Included]


How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions [Video Included]
How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions

Many professionals seek to become more efficient decision-makers. Being a good decision-maker is a sought after skill. It can often be the difference between a promotion or a pink slip. In today’s uncertain times this skill lets you stand out on the team with quicker and better decisions. How do you become more accurate and effective at making decisions when it counts?

What is the objective of the mission? 

  • Know the objective of the decision and know your mission on the team.
  • Ask yourself: What are we really trying to do here?
  • Write it out, brainstorm, and discuss. Is it your role to solve this problem? Do you have the tools needed?

How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions [Video Included]
How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions (Photo by Sora Shimazaki)

Seek Out Wisdom And Knowledge

Seek out, wise counsel. Really. If you are surrounded by more experienced professionals who have done what you are about to do, ask questions, and inform yourself. Do needed research. Don’t let pride or proving that you have it all under control” blind you to great resources all around you.

It Does Not Have To Be Perfect

Don’t overthink - just start. Make a plan. An imperfect, real plan. Start doing the work that is deciding and solving. Take note of the effects and response to your action. This way you can adjust if needed.

Adjust Early

Be humble - make the adjustment early if needed. Don’t run the train off the track because you are unwilling to admit that you made a mistake. If your choice was wrong, own up to it in a professional way and make things right to the best of your ability. It’s better to win the fight after a change of tactics than to get knocked out by your own ego and pride.

How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions [Video Included]
How To Make Quicker And Better Decisions

Control What You Can Control

It is important when making decisions to know what you truly have power over. If it’s not your decision to make, stay out of the control room. Also - use this adage to relieve stress. Only focus on what you have the ability to decide on. This means staying focused and being able to take action without becoming overwhelmed by the details.

Decision making does not have to be a tedious and stressful process. With the right attitude, planning, and strategy you can become a faster, more efficient, and competent decision-maker. This is a great tool for the corporate world and for everyday life. 

The Video:

17 March 2021

New Book to Celebrate Centennial Landmark of U.S. Women's Suffrage

New Book to Celebrate Centennial Landmark of U.S. Women's Suffrage
'A Vote for Women: Celebrating the Women's Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment' -Front Cover
August 2020 marked the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provided a constitutional right to vote by prohibiting voter discrimination against women.
Titled 'A Vote for Women: Celebrating the Women's Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment., this fully illustrated and beautifully designed hardback book charts the history of the women's suffrage movement in the U.S., the fight for the vote, and some of the advances that have resulted from that victory.

In addition to exploring the history of women's suffrage in the U.S., the book brings together important stories from the fields of equality and women's rights. It also offers an insight into Congress and U.S. government departments, and the contributions they have made in shaping the U.S. of today.

A Vote for Women features editorial contributions from academics, government agencies, charities, corporations, and other organizations, alongside archival photography that vividly brings the battle for the ballot to life.

  • The book is being published by St James's House – an imprint of the SJH Group – in association with the 2020 Women's Vote Centennial Initiative (WVCI), and is being promoted as part of WVCI's ongoing celebration of centennial activities around the country, which have been extended into 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 and the desire to bring the centennial story to as wide an audience as possible.
Ahead of the book's launch, Anna Danby, Publishing Director at the SJH Group, said: "This book celebrates the work of the remarkable women behind this achievement, and will heighten awareness around the ongoing work of our partner organizations to support social equality."
Nancy Tate, Co-Chair of WVCI with Krysta Jones, said: "WVCI serves as a central information-sharing entity for activities around the country that commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the long struggle that produced it. St James's House has beautifully combined the work of many contributors into a keepsake book that celebrates both the centennial and the contributions made by many women over the last 100 years."
  • The book will be launched through a digital launch event on March 31, 2021 at 11am PDT/ 2pm EDT/ 7pm GMT. To attend the virtual book launch, please register at: The deadline for registration is March 26, 2021.

About the WVCI:

The 2020 Women's Vote Centennial Initiative (WVCI) is a collaborative effort created to share information and stimulate activities around the country in the years leading up to 2020. The mission of the WVCI is to serve as a central organizing and information-sharing entity for programs, projects, and activities that commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, educate the public on the legal and social advances resulting from the amendment, and stimulate dialogue to address the ongoing fight for women's rights.

SOURCE: St James's House

16 March 2021

Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles [Trailer Included]

Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles [Trailer Included]
Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles (PRNewsfoto/Wizards of the Coast)
Wizards of the Coast proudly announced that Dark Alliance, the explosive action roleplaying game that builds upon the rich lore of the Forgotten Realms in Dungeons & Dragons, launches on June 22, 2021 for PC, PlayStation4, PlayStation5, Xbox One Consoles and Xbox Series X|S.
"Dark Alliance marks an important milestone for us as the first Dungeons & Dragons video game to be published by Wizards of the Coast," said Chris Cocks, President, Wizards of the Coast. "We're excited to expand beyond the tabletop and deliver a brand new type of D&D experience to long-time fans and new audiences when the game launches this June."
Developed by Wizards Studio, Tuque Games, and set in the Forgotten Realms, the game features real-time combat and dynamic co-op gameplay, and pits the infamous Drizzt Do'Urden and his legendary companions – Catti-brie, Bruenor, and Wulfgar – against some of the most iconic monsters from the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Frost Giants, Beholders, and White Dragons roam the frozen tundra of Icewind Dale in search of the Crystal Shard— and it's up to the companions to muster the strength to stop them from claiming and using it to destroy their home.

Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles [Trailer Included]
Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles (PRNewsfoto/Wizards of the Coast)
Starting today, fans can pre-order the Digital Edition for $39.99 online via or the standard edition and retail-exclusive Steelbook edition for $59.99 at select retailers. 

The Steelbook edition includes: 
  • a Steelbook case
  • a printed art book 
  • a downloadable Dungeons & Dragons soundtrack 
  • a Beholder and Lich weapon set 
  • the forthcoming expansion "Echoes of the Blood War". 
Fans can also opt to pre-order the Digital Deluxe Edition for $59.99 that includes the upcoming expansion "Echoes of the Blood War" and the Lich weapon set. All pre-orders – regardless of edition or platform – will receive an exclusive in-game Beholder weapon set at launch.

"Dungeons & Dragons is the reason I became a game developer; it's a lifelong dream realized to be able to create something that is fun to play over and over again with your friends," said Jeff Hattem, studio head, Tuque Games. "Since announcing the game, we've worked to bring these iconic characters and monsters to life in a stunningly beautiful and fully realized world that makes you feel like you're in the middle of combat encounters in D&D."
Wizards of the Coast is making it easy to assemble your party. Players who purchase Dark Alliance on PlayStation4 will receive a free digital download code so that they can upgrade to the PlayStation5, and vice versa. Players who pre-order on Xbox One Consoles or Xbox Series X|S will only have to buy the game once and receive it on both platforms through Smart Delivery.

Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles [Trailer Included]
Wizards of the Coast Announces Launch Date for Dungeons & Dragons Video Game Dark Alliance for PC & Consoles (PRNewsfoto/Wizards of the Coast)
SOURCE: Wizards of the Coast

15 March 2021

It's Official: Katy Perry and NCT Dream Will Headline Lazada's 9th Birthday Celebrations!

It's Official: Katy Perry and NCT Dream Will Headline Lazada's 9th Birthday Celebrations!
Tune in to LazLive on 26 March to catch Katy Perry and many more celebrity guests from across Asia during Lazada’s 9th Birthday Super Party!
Southeast Asia's leading eCommerce platform Lazada today unveiled a star-studded lineup for its Lazada Super Party, a virtual concert slated to be simulcast across six countries on 26 March to kick off its ninth anniversary celebrations.
Global award-winning singer-songwriter Katy Perry and NCT Dream, Korea's number one youth boy band, are set to headline this year's Shoppertainment-packed Lazada Super Party concert, sharing the stage with top celebrities in Southeast Asia. 

It's Official: Katy Perry and NCT Dream Will Headline Lazada's 9th Birthday Celebrations!
Tune in to LazLive on 26 March to catch NCT Dream and many more celebrity guests from across Asia during Lazada’s 9th Birthday Super Party!
  • These fun and exciting performances will accompany consumers as they countdown to Lazada's Surprise Birthday Sale event that starts at midnight on 27 March. Consumers across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam can tune in to the exclusive Lazada Super Party concert via Lazada's in-app livestream channel LazLive, as well as local broadcasting networks and social media platforms.
Themed around celebrating 'Everyday Superheroes', this year's concert not only pays tribute to frontline essential workers that have been working tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but also shines the spotlight on individuals in our community who have in their own ways touched the lives of people around them.
Chun Li, Chief Executive Officer of Lazada Group said, "Lazada has grown into the robust eCommerce platform that it is thanks to the strong support and trust that our sellers, brands, customers and partners have given us over the years. As we celebrate Lazada's ninth anniversary, we also want to recognise the positive impacts made by every individual in our community. We are excited to continue setting the benchmark for the eCommerce industry, by propelling entrepreneurs and brands forward in their digital transformation journey, and serving consumers through a safe, convenient and experiential shopping journey."
"I'm delighted for global superstars like Katy Perry and NCT Dream, as well as Southeast Asia's biggest names, join us in this year's celebrations dedicated in honour of individuals and communities who have stood strong and resilient in the past year. I look forward to the opportunity for Lazada to bring joy to consumers in Southeast Asia through our annual signature Lazada Super Party concert and Birthday shopping event, and that our community will remain hopeful for the future," said Mary Zhou, Chief Marketing Officer of Lazada Group.
Sharing words of positivity and hope to her fans in Southeast Asia, top-selling global singer-songwriter popular for chart-topping hits like "Roar", "Dark Horse" and her latest studio album Smile Katy Perry said, "Thank you for supporting and loving me all this time. I am excited to meet you soon at the Lazada Super Party, to hopefully spread a little light, love and joy and have everyone sing along with me, even if we are physically apart. I wish for Lazada to help all of their customers as they need, and for everyone to always look on the bright side of life."
  • Also part of the concert's exciting line-up of performers are Agnez Mo, Raisa and 3 Diva from Indonesia, Haqiem Rusli and Ismail Izzani from Malaysia, Mimiyuuuh and Alden Richards from the Philippines, Jasmine Sokko and Nathan Hartono from Singapore, "Bella" Ranee Campen and Da Endorphine from Thailand, as well as Ha Anh Tuan, Tran Thanh and Den from Vietnam
Consumers can get a sneak peek into the anticipated lineup of performances by Katy Perry, NCT Dream and other top Southeast Asian artistes highlighting the concert by checking out the exclusive Lazada 9th Birthday Super Party playlist on Spotify.

  • The concert will include Lazada's signature Shoppertainment segments like Voucher Rain, as well as Guess It! and Shake It! in different countries where viewers can win vouchers and exclusive giveaways, as a prelude to Lazada's Surprise Birthday Sale that can be utilised on 27 March.
As part of this month's festivities, Lazada lauded six outstanding woman sellers at its inaugural Lazada Forward Women Awards, held recently during International Women's Day on 8 March. These women trailblazers in the eCommerce space had showcased resilience and innovation in their journeys as entrepreneurs, and were recognised for their range of accomplishments such as launching homegrown local businesses that have contributed to their families' livelihood, uplifting and forging new paths for local communities, or the pursuit of personal growth through innovation and enterprise.

It's Official: Katy Perry and NCT Dream Will Headline Lazada's 9th Birthday Celebrations!
It's Official: Katy Perry and NCT Dream Will Headline Lazada's 9th Birthday Celebrations!

About Lazada Group:

Founded in 2012, Lazada Group is the leading eCommerce platform in Southeast Asia. We are accelerating progress in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam through commerce and technology. With the largest logistics and payments networks in the region, Lazada is a part of our consumers' daily lives in the region and we aim to serve 300 million shoppers by 2030. Since 2016, Lazada is the Southeast Asia flagship platform of the Alibaba Group powered by its cutting-edge technology infrastructure.

Related Video:

SOURCE: Lazada Group

11 March 2021

Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm to Release Short Film 'The Black League of Superheroes' on April 30th [Trailer Included]

Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm to Release Short Film 'The Black League of Superheroes' on April 30 [Trailer Included]
'The Black League of Superheroes' - Poster
Former pro wrestler turned writer, director, actor and producer, Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm, will be releasing his anticipated short film, The Black League of Superheroes – available to watch on April 30th through the film's website and via YouTube.
Marvel and DC enthusiasts will enjoy following the story of a young hero, Miles Morales Spiderman, who discovers that an intentional injustice was covered up as an accident. To prevent this from happening again, he takes advantage of his gifts and "borrows" a powerful glove to summon his elders: Spawn, Blade and Black Panther. The band of superheroes must then decide how to best address the tragedy that has unfolded before them.

  • With the current political climate and the ascent of the Black Lives Matter movement, Marcus was inspired to create a film where Black individuals can see themselves reflected as superheroes.
Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm to Release Short Film 'The Black League of Superheroes' on April 30 [Trailer Included]
'The Black League of Superheroes' -Miles Morales Spiderman (screengrab)
"Being able to create positive Black images is extremely important in times like this, and it's also important for Black people who are being victimized and brutalized from mischaracterizations to regain a sense of empowerment," Marcus explains.
  • Among the aforementioned superheroes, audiences will also see fan favorites including Superman, Storm, and Bayne.

The Trailer:


(Via IMDb)
Spoilers Alert! The synopsis below may give away important plot points.
"A young hero, Miles Morales Spiderman learns of a tragic incident claimed to have been accidental that turns out to have been intentional. His hidden abilities make him capable of knowing the truth from lies but he can't reveal this to the world to protect his identity. Instead, he takes advantage of his gifts and "borrows" a powerful and mystical glove using it to summon four of his elders who he believes will help him to right the wrong that has happened and that he knows will continue to happen if nothing is done about it. These heroes, Spawn, Blade, Black Panther have never met one another and must quickly make a decision that can be the difference between life and death. They were all in the middle of their own experiences at the time that they were summoned and one unique hero, an unrecognized Superman is of the same universe that Miles has taken the others to so he is not summoned, but invited the old fashioned way. The 4 wait impatiently for his arrival in order to learn the reason for their sudden relocation into an empty room in a place unrecognized. Young Miles is hopeful that his elders will show him the way to deal with the harshness of reality. Spawn, Blade, and Black Panther were all summoned from their own universes so we will see the events that were unfolding at the time prior to being called upon. Black Panther, in a tactical pursuit, to claim his greatest treasure, the X-Men's Storm. Blade was on the hunt for a tough vampire who was once a prize MMA fighter named Pogona. Spawn was in the alley streets watching over his friends when one is suddenly attacked. Each of their stories are told while they wait for the arrival of Superman and then Miles Morales proceeds to reveal the reason for his bringing them there. They must then decide on how they can best address the tragedy that they learn has unfolded...."
Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm to Release Short Film 'The Black League of Superheroes' on April 30 [Trailer Included]
'The Black League of Superheroes' - Blade (screengrab)

About Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm: 

Born in Washington D.C. and a graduate of the University of Maryland College Park with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice, Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm emerged into the entertainment scene through the world of pro wrestling under the moniker of Marcus Jordan. He is a multi-title holding main event performer.

Marcus transitioned toward acting with a role on two episodes of the HBO series, The Wire. He's continued to gain momentum working as a television, theatrical and commercial actor, and is trained in film/TV stunt fighting.

This June, Marcus will be producing and starring in Heaven's Revenge, the full-length feature of the hit short of the same name (which he also stars in and can be seen on Amazon Prime).

  • Now an L.A. mainstay, Marcus is an advocate for global world peace and a promoter of a new Urban Renaissance where he inspires youth from all walks of life.
Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm to Release Short Film 'The Black League of Superheroes' on April 30 [Trailer Included]
'The Black League of Superheroes' - Black Panther (screengrab)

SOURCE: Marcus Nel-Jamal Hamm

10 March 2021

After a Year of Pain, Here's How The COVID-19 Pandemic Could Play Out in 2021 and Beyond

After a Year of Pain, Here's How The COVID-19 Pandemic Could Play Out in 2021 and Beyond
After a Year of Pain, Here's How The COVID-19 Pandemic Could Play Out in 2021 and Beyond (image from

One year ago today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the first caused by a coronavirus.

As we enter year two of the pandemic, let’s remind ourselves of some sobering statistics. So far, there have been more than 117.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world; more than 2.6 million people have died. A total of 221 countries and territories have been affected. Some 12 of the 14 countries and territories reporting no cases are small Pacific or Atlantic islands.

Whether the race to end the pandemic will be a sprint or a marathon remains to be seen, as does the extent of the gap between rich and poor contestants. However, as vaccines roll out across the world, it seems we are collectively just out of the starting blocks.

Here are the challenges we face over the next 12 months if we are to ever begin to reduce COVID-19 to a sporadic or endemic disease.

Vaccines are like walking on the Moon

Developing safe and effective vaccines in such a short time frame was a mission as ambitious, and with as many potential pitfalls, as walking on the Moon.

Miraculously, 12 months since a pandemic was declared, eight vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, have been approved by at least one country. A ninth, Novavax, is very promising. So far, more than 312 million people have been vaccinated with at least one dose.

While most high-income countries will have vaccinated their populations by early 2022, 85 poor countries will have to wait until 2023.

This implies the world won’t be back to normal travel, trade and supply chains until 2024 unless rich countries take actions — such as waiving vaccine patents, diversifying production of vaccines and supporting vaccine delivery — to help poor countries catch up.

The vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective in preventing symptomatic and severe COVID-19. However, we need to continue to study the vaccines after being rolled out (conducting so-called post-implementation studies) in 2021 and beyond. This is to determine how long protection lasts, whether we need booster doses, how well vaccines work in children and the impact of vaccines on viral transmission.

What should make us feel optimistic is that in countries that rolled out the vaccines early, such as the UK and Israel, there are signs the rate of new infections is in decline.

What are the potential barriers to overcome?

One of the most salutary lessons we have learnt in the pandemic’s first year is how dangerous it is to let COVID-19 transmission go unchecked. The result is the emergence of more transmissible variants that escape our immune responses, high rates of excess mortality and a stalled economy.

Until we achieve high levels of population immunity via vaccination, in 2021 we must maintain individual and societal measures, such as masks, physical distancing, and hand hygiene; improve indoor ventilation; and strengthen outbreak responses — testing, contact tracing and isolation.

After a Year of Pain, Here's How The COVID-19 Pandemic Could Play Out in 2021 and Beyond
In 2021, we still need to wear masks, physically distance, clean our hands, and improve indoor ventilation. (image from

However, there are already signs of complacency and much misinformation to counter, especially for vaccine uptake. So we must continue to address both these barriers.

The outcomes of even momentary complacency are evident as global numbers of new cases once again increase after a steady two month decline. This recent uptick reflects surges in many European countries, such as Italy, and Latin American countries like Brazil and Cuba. New infections in Papua New Guinea have also risen alarmingly in the past few weeks.

Some fundamental questions also remain unanswered. We don’t know how long either natural or vaccine-induced immunity will last. However, encouraging news from the US reveals 92-98% of COVID-19 survivors had adequate immune protection six to eight months after infection. In 2021, we will continue to learn more about how long natural and vaccine-induced immunity lasts.

New variants may be the greatest threat

The longer the coronavirus circulates widely, the higher the risk of more variants of concern emerging. We are aware of B.1.1.7 (the variant first detected in the UK), B.1.351 (South Africa), and P.1 (Brazil).

But other variants have been identified. These include B.1.427, which is now the dominant, more infectious, strain in California and one identified recently in New York, named B.1.526.

Variants may transmit more readily than the original Wuhan strain of the virus and may lead to more cases. Some variants may also be resistant to vaccines, as has already been demonstrated with the B.1.351 strain. We will continue to learn more about the impact of variants on disease and vaccines in 2021 and beyond.

A year from now

Given so many unknowns, how the world will be in March 2022 would be an educated guess. However, what is increasingly clear is there will be no “mission accomplished” moment. We are at a crossroads with two end games.

In the most likely scenario, rich countries will return to their new normal. Businesses and schools will reopen and internal travel will resume. Travel corridors will be established between countries with low transmission and high vaccine coverage. This might be between Singapore and Taiwan, between Australia and Vietnam, and maybe between all four, and more countries.

In low- and middle-income countries, there may be a reduction in severe cases, freeing them to rehabilitate health services that have suffered in the past 12 months. These include maternal, newborn, and child health services, including reproductive health; tuberculosis, HIV and malaria programs; and nutrition. However, reviving these services will need rich countries to commit generous and sustained aid.

The second scenario, which sadly is unlikely to occur, is unprecedented global cooperation with a focus on science and solidarity to halt transmission everywhere.

This is a fragile moment in modern world history. But, in record time, we have developed effective tools to eventually control this pandemic. The path to a post-COVID-19 future can perhaps now be characterised as a hurdle race but one that presents severe handicaps to the world’s poorest nations. As an international community, we have the capacity to make it a level playing field.

About Today's Contributor:

Michael Toole, Professor of International Health, Burnet Institute

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

85% Of Women Have Witnessed Harassment & Online Violence, Finds New Research From The Economist Intelligence Unit

85% Of Women Have Witnessed Harassment & Online Violence, Finds New Research From The Economist Intelligence Unit
85% Of Women Have Witnessed Harassment & Online Violence, Finds New Research From The Economist Intelligence Unit (PRNewsfoto/The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU))
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has released a new study supported by Jigsaw, a unit within Google that forecasts and confronts emerging digital threats, delving into the prevalence and impact of online violence against women on a global scale. "Measuring the prevalence of online violence against women" reveals that nearly 40% of women surveyed have been harassed online whilst the vast majority (85%) have witnessed harassment or other forms of online violence.
Undertaken to enable informed decision-making on the issue of online violence, to better understand women's experiences online, and to measure the tactics and trends of online violence, the research also demonstrates the impact of online violence in silencing female voices. 

  • Half of women surveyed said that the internet is not a safe place for them to express their thoughts and opinions. 32% of women reconsidered posting a comment online, 30% reduced their online presence, and 20% stopped using that online platform entirely.
"Measuring the prevalence of online violence against women" further found that online violence against women should be seen on the same continuum as offline violence, with more than half of women (54%) knowing their online attackers, and nearly three-quarters (74%) expressing particular concern about online abuse escalating to offline threats.

According to the results, underreporting likely hides the real numbers with only 1 in 4 women reporting abuse to the platform(s) on which it occurred and only 14% reporting it to an offline protective agency. 78% are often unaware that options exist to report harmful online behaviors. This trend is underpinned by the fact that 6 in 10 women surveyed indicated a sense of helplessness, as little is done to combat the issue. The evidence base supports this, in 64 of 86 countries studied in The Web Index, law enforcement agencies and courts appear to be failing to take appropriate corrective actions to address online violence against women.

Key highlights:

  • 38% reported personal experiences with online harassment
  • 65% reported knowing women in their network who had been targeted online
  • 85% have witnessed online violence against other women (including from outside their networks)
  • Younger women are more likely to have experienced online violence: 45% Generation Z and Millennials versus 31% for Generation X and Baby Boomers
  • Only 1 in 4 women reported online abuse to the platform(s) on which it occurred, and only 14% reported it to an offline protective agency
  • 54% of women who experienced online abuse knew their attackers, and nearly 74% expressed particular concern about online abuse escalating to offline threats
  • 6 in 10 women surveyed indicated a sense of helplessness as little is done to combat the issue
  • 35% of women reported mental health issues as a result of experiencing online violence
  • 92% of women reported that online violence harms their sense of wellbeing
"The internet can provide a vital space for women seeking expression and opportunity but this report shows that the high prevalence of online violence against women is forcing self-censorship, and limiting women's representation in societal, political and economic discussions and decisions. The covid-19 pandemic has led to significant increases in internet use, further exacerbating the situation. Through this granular measurement of the prevalence of online violence against women, we aim to enable timely, synchronised multi-stakeholder action on the issue" said Vaibhav Sahgal, senior manager, The Economist Intelligence Unit.
85% Of Women Have Witnessed Harassment & Online Violence, Finds New Research From The Economist Intelligence Unit
85% Of Women Have Witnessed Harassment & Online Violence, Finds New Research From The Economist Intelligence Unit
The results were compiled from a survey undertaken by The EIU in the year between May 2019 to May 2020. It included 4,561 women, across 51 countries, using an innovative prevalence-estimation modelling methodology. The complete methodology can be downloaded here. The study assessed prevalence across nine threat tactics often used in combination by online attackers: misinformation and defamation, cyber-harassment, hate speech, impersonation, hacking and stalking, video- and image-based abuse, doxing, violent threats, and astroturfing. The prevalence of each tactic was measured at three levels: personal, community and witnessed.

About The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU):

The Economist Intelligence Unit (The EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. The EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 199 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. 

SOURCE: The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

8 March 2021

Nathan's Famous And Andy Cohen "Get Along Famously" In New Video Campaign [Video Included]

Nathan's Famous And Andy Cohen "Get Along Famously" In New Video Campaign [Video Included]
Andy Cohen shows fans how Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs can help bring people together in new “Get Along Famously” video campaign
Earlier this year, Nathan's Famous, the iconic New York-based hot dog brand, teamed up with another pop-culture icon from the Big Apple, Andy Cohen, to star in the Get Along Famously Stranger Stand campaign – a series of dynamic short videos showcasing how the one and only taste of Nathan's Famous 100% Beef Franks can help bring people together and foster genuine moments of connection.
Throughout the eight episodes, Cohen, a TV host known for interacting with famous faces and settling heated debates on his reunion shows, can be seen taking to the streets of a residential neighborhood to set up a Nathan's Famous hot dog stand. Along the way, he encounters strangers passing by – cliquey high schoolers, bickering siblings, a very friendly pack of dachshunds and more – who are having trouble seeing eye-to-eye and finding common ground. But Andy, using delicious Nathan's Famous Franks and his expert connection skills, helps them reach a mutual understanding and eventually 'get along famously.'
"At Nathan's, we strive to provide a unique taste experience with our original 105-year-old recipe that can bring together individuals from all walks of life, no matter what age, where they live, or who they are, and turn strangers into friends," said Bethany Gurecki, brand manager for Nathan's Famous. "There's no denying that Andy Cohen also knows a thing or two about bringing people together – including feuding A-listers – which is why he was the perfect fit for our Get Along Famously Stranger Stand video campaign."
This past weekend, Cohen posted one of his favorite episodes on Instagram, Episode 3: Capitalistic Beef. In the endearing clip, Cohen manages to 'get along famously' with the kids who strategically set up a lemonade stand next door. 

The entire collection of videos can be found on Nathan's Famous' YouTube channel, including:
  • Episode 1: Dog Thoughts
  • Episode 2: Like Father, Like Son
  • Episode 3: Capitalistic Beef
  • Episode 4: Gamer Headset
  • Episode 5: Bike Security
  • Episode 6: High School
  • Episode 7: Virtual Wedding
  • Episode 8: Sibling Rivalry
Nathan's Famous And Andy Cohen "Get Along Famously" In New Video Campaign
Nathan's Famous And Andy Cohen "Get Along Famously" In New Video Campaign (screengrab)

About Nathan's Famous:

Nathan's Famous is a Russell 2000 Company that currently distributes its products in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and 16 foreign countries through its restaurant system, foodservice sales programs and product licensing activities. Last year, over 700 million Nathan's Famous hot dogs were sold. 

Smithfield Employees, Local Volunteers Serve Hot Meals to More Than 2,500 'Hometown Heroes' Across Southeast North Carolina
Smithfield Employees, Local Volunteers Serve Hot Meals to More Than 2,500 'Hometown Heroes' Across Southeast North Carolina (PRNewsfoto/Smithfield Foods, Inc.)

About Smithfield Foods, Inc.:

Headquartered in Smithfield, Va. since 1936, Smithfield Foods, Inc. is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Our 40,000 U.S. and 15,000 European employees are dedicated to producing "Good food. Responsibly." and have made us one of the world's leading vertically integrated protein companies. We have pioneered sustainability standards for more than two decades, including many industry firsts, such as our ambitious commitment to cut our carbon impact by 25 percent by 2025. We believe in the power of protein to end food insecurity and have donated hundreds of millions of food servings to our neighbors in need. Smithfield boasts a portfolio of high-quality iconic brands, such as Smithfield, Eckrich and Nathan's Famous, among many others.

SOURCE: Smithfield Foods, Inc.

[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld

[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld
'A Sword Among Ravens' - Book Tour Banner

The Book:

A Sword Among Ravens
(The Long-Hair Saga
By Cynthia Ripley Miller
Publication Date: 9th December 2020
Publisher: BookLocker
Page Length: 267 Pages
Genre: Romantic Historical Mystery

The Blurb:

In a grave, on the edge of a Roman battlefield, an ancient sword has been discovered. Legend claims it belonged to King David of Israel and carries a curse—those who wield it will tragically die—but not the chosen.

AD 455. Arria Felix and her husband, Garic the Frank, have safely delivered a sacred relic to Emperor Marcian in Constantinople. But now, Arria and Garic will accept a new mission. The emperor has asked them to carry the sword of King David of Israel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem where Arria will dedicate it in her murdered father’s memory.

As Arria and Garic travel into the heart of the Holy Land, they face many challenges and dangers. Their young daughter is missing then found in the company of a strange and suspicious old monk. A brutal killer stalks their path. And a band of cold-blooded thieves is determined to steal the sword for their own gains. But when Arria confronts the question of where the sword should truly rest—old friendships, loyalties, and her duty are put to the test like never before. At every turn, Arria and Garic find themselves caught in a treacherous mission wrapped in mystery, murder, and A Sword Among Ravens.

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[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld
'A Sword Among Ravens' - Front Cover

'A Sword Among Ravens' - Excerpt:


A Husband, a Sword, and a Curse

AD 447: Roman Province of Dacia Ripensis (Bulgaria)—Month of Julius

Waves of burnt grass fell away as Lucius Valerius Marcian stomped through the battlefield. Behind him, his surviving cavalry soldiers—the Roman VIII Augusta Equites—found their horses abandoned when the fighting went to foot. Marcian stopped and looked around.

Toward the west, bold yellow rays stretched from the late afternoon sun across gray clouds gathering overhead. They shined with an ominous brightness that rattled through him, making him uneasy—on guard. The battle against the Huns had been fierce. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but their Roman general had died on the field, a brutal blow for the Romans. Shouting victory, the Huns had moved east toward a nearby city, and greater plunders.

A mild breeze swept past him. He winced. A stench floated from the barbarian and Roman corpses around them. The smell of death wasn’t new to him. But even now, after many battles and bodies at his feet, the foul odor, the sight of bloated flesh, and gaping wounds were still difficult to ignore.

Marcian swallowed hard and turned from the wind. He searched the distance. On a small hill, he spied Apollo. The horse grazed beside a cluster of bushes that circled a large oak tree. Sweat dripped from Marcian’s curls and onto his brow while splatters of blood and skin stuck to his tunic, helmet, and leather armor. The summer heat had laughed at the slaughter, adding a cruel torment to the battle, but they had persevered, fought tight, outmaneuvered—and lived. He would see Arria again.

The other horses stood farther away, and the men fanned in that direction. Marcian grinned. It was just like Apollo to go in his own direction and very similar to his master, who often struggled with his own independent nature. Even the girl he chose to marry was not the average Roman woman. Arria had been raised unconventionally. Her father had provided her with a man’s education, not just the domestic arts taught to women. As a result, many in Rome respected her for her sharp wit, powers of deduction, and diplomacy. Marcian’s friends warned that she might be a difficult wife to control, but he had no desire to rule over her; he just wanted to live with and lay beside her. He loved her tenacity, her keen mind, and most important to him, they laughed together.

Marcian ran up the hill while Apollo continued to graze. Suddenly, he stumbled and went sprawling face down onto the ground. Something solid had tripped him. He rose to his knees and shook his head. Running his fingers over his forehead, he glanced behind him. A small black object jutted out from the grass at an angle.

Scrambling to his feet, he went and crouched over it. To the eye and touch, it looked and felt like an iron ring pushing through the earth, eroded by weather and time. Marcian drew his knife and scratched the exterior. Hardened dirt stuck to the surface, forcing him to chip it away. The more he scraped, the larger the object grew. After several more attempts, the ring appeared attached to a metal slab. Marcian looked around. The field was quiet. Most of his men had retrieved their horses and returned to the field camp. Roman bodies needed to be stripped and buried. Not far from him, he spotted his centurion riding in his direction. He waved, and the Roman soldier trotted his horse toward him. A barbarian by birth, the tall, husky blond Goth, Darius, wore only a tunic with a thick leather belt, boots, and no helmet. He lent a sharp contrast to Marcian’s shorter, rugged build and dark coloring.

“Darius, help me!” Marcian stood and shouted. “I’ve found something odd buried in the grass.”

The centurion rode up the hill and jumped from his horse. “What is it, sir?” he asked.

“An iron ring attached to a lid or door, but I want to know what’s inside. Tie up my horse. Then go to the camp and bring back two shovels.”

Marcian returned to his knees while Darius tethered Apollo and then rode away. Thunder pealed in the distance. He looked toward the sky. A few sun rays still pierced the clouds, but the moving layers looked darker, heavier. He raked his knife faster. With a strong hand, he brushed away the earth. Marcian sat back on his haunches, gazed at the ring, and waited. Soon, Darius arrived with the shovels. They dug along the perimeter in opposite directions. Within minutes, they uncovered two hinges on what was clearly a bronze frame. Whatever lay beneath the earth was larger than Marcian had imagined.

In unison, they fought feverishly to unearth the mysterious object and beat the threatening rain. With the last layer of dirt gone, both men stopped to rest. Embedded in the hill’s grassy slope, a three by six-foot rusted iron door shone dark brown in the light. Darius sat on a nearby rock. Marcian took a breath, removed his helmet, and dropped it on the ground.

“How strange,” Marcian commented, pulling a short scarf from around his neck. He wiped his brow and then tied it around his forehead.

Darius nodded, then pursed his lips and scratched his jaw. “Looks heavy, I wonder if it can be opened?” With a quick laugh, he added. “I brought some mead to strengthen us.”

“Good man!”

Darius retrieved a pouch hanging on his saddle and tossed it to Marcian, who took a swig and handed the pouch back to the centurion. Darius took a long drink.

Marcian looked at the sky. “The sun is hidden now. Let’s open this door—to the devil knows what—and be done before the rain falls.” He grabbed the handle, and Darius used the shovel to pry open the door from its frame.

The first attempt proved futile. Their breath labored, they heaved and groaned as thunder rolled over them.

“Balls! This is stubborn,” Darius hissed between clenched teeth.

Marcian tugged at the handle. Darius wedged the shovel’s blade between the door and the frame. The door hinges creaked, giving them hope. Their muscles straining, they braced their legs, bent forward, and yanked. The door screeched like a warning owl. “Harder,” Marcian gasped. Darius bellowed a curse.

The door suddenly gave way, almost knocking Marcian backward. He steadied himself, took a step, and looked down. A dark hole leading into a tunnel gaped back at him.

Shit! What’s that?” Darius spat.

“How the hell do I know,” Marcian replied gruffly, but I’m going to find out.”

Darius nodded, swiped the pouch from the ground, and took another drink. “Will you go first, Tribune?”

Marcian laughed. “Centurion, I won’t let my rank trump your lack of courage.” With a last look into the pit, he jumped in. The edge of the earth came to his waist, and he knelt to crawl in deeper. A few feet ahead of him, he saw bone fragments, a partial jaw with several teeth, and a bundle of deteriorated leather. A shield rested nearby.

Marcian’s heart beat faster. He looked closer. A metal box poked through the bones and animal skin. A sudden rush of dread washed over him. Sweat trickled from beneath the scarf covering his brow. He paused but spied a metal grip. Marcian quickly yanked the box and scurried backward, dragging the case to the opening. Darius gave him a hand, and Marcian jumped out. Together, they reached into the hole and lifted the box onto the ground.

They stood beside it and stared. The box looked about three feet long, a foot wide and half as deep. Marcian tore away the decomposed leather clinging to the outside. On closer inspection, the case proved to be silver, heavily tarnished. A lock secured the lid. Marcian snatched a remnant of the aged leather and rubbed the top of the metal. A short row of engraved and unrecognizable letters or symbols, dulled by time, appeared. He frowned. The case seemed quite old, perhaps ancient.

“Shall we open it?” Darius asked, his eyes shining.

“Better to open it here than in camp with many around us. Use the shovel.”

Darius nodded and swung the blade down against the lock. Yielding to the force of the clanging iron tool, the lock snapped open. Marcian planted his feet firmly behind the box, at the base, and clamped his fingers on the lid’s edge. Darius pressed one foot on the front side and used his knife to pry at it while Marcian pulled from behind. The rusted lid budged a little but groaned its refusal.

“Lift!” Marcian barked, and his jaw tightened. The lid creaked one more time—then gave in and opened.

A whoosh escaped the box trailed by a faint odor of eucalyptus. Both men flinched with the sensation and glanced at one another. Inside, an object wrapped in grayed linen cloth fit snugly into the container.

“This gets more mysterious by the moment,” Marcian said softly.

Darius scratched his head. “What is it?”

“Let’s find out; the day is dying, and a raindrop just brushed my cheek.” Marcian kneeled and lifted the bundle from its case. With a pivot and his arms extended, he gently placed it on the ground. As Marcian unwrapped the object, pieces of the linen crumbled. A soft flash of light burst through the fabric and struck his eyes; he blinked. When he looked again, a sword, simple in form but strangely beautiful lay nestled in the cloth.

Cynthia Ripley Miller

Author Bio:

Cynthia Ripley Miller is a first generation Italian-American writer with a love for history, languages, and books. She has lived in Europe and traveled world-wide, holds two degrees, and taught history and English. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthology Summer Tapestry, at Orchard Press, and The Scriptor. She is a Chanticleer International Chatelaine Award finalist with awards from Circle of Books-Rings of Honor and The Coffee Pot Book Club. She has reviewed for UNRV Roman History, and blogs at Historical Happenings and Oddities: A Distant Focus and on her website,

Cynthia is the author of On the Edge of Sunrise, The Quest for the Crown of Thorns, and A Sword Among Ravens, books 1-3 in her Long-Hair Saga series set in Late Ancient Rome, France, and Jerusalem. Cynthia lives outside of Chicago with her family, along with a cute but bossy cat.

Connect with Cynthia:


[Blog Tour] 'A Sword Among Ravens' (The Long-Hair Saga) By Cynthia Ripley Miller #HistoricalMystery #AncientWorld
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