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Passport To Freedom?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/04/2021 - 4:01pm in

What are the consequences to immunity or vaccine passports? And will these temporary measures become the norm as we gradually forget that freedom is a natural condition?

Host, Ross Ashcroft, met up with founder of StopCommonPass, David Nolan, and Director of Electronic Frontier Foundation, Alexis Hancock, to discuss.

The post Passport To Freedom? appeared first on Renegade Inc.

Another Covid casualty. Old travel agency mainly catering to...

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/02/2021 - 8:44am in


Travel, tourism

Another Covid casualty. Old travel agency mainly catering to the local Greek, Italian and Portuguese migrant communities, shut up shop after more than 30 years. With international tourism from here off the menu for another 12 months for sure, can’t see it making a comeback. Edwardian-era building with typical bay windows on the shop-top flats. Marrickville.

UK Travel Quarantine (1971)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/01/2021 - 6:25am in

When Will You Be Able and Willing to Travel for Work Again? (updated)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 11:12pm in



The organizers of conferences, the planners of colloquia, the inviters of speakers… these are some of the people who’d like to know when you think you’ll have permission and funding from your university or college to once again travel for work—and the willingess to do it.

[time-lapse photography by Pete Mauney]

Of course, most of us don’t know for sure what our schools’ plans are, nor do we know with any certainty the trajectory and development of the pandemic. But it could be useful nonetheless to get a sense what members of the philosophical community think about their future travel plans. So below is a short, one-question poll. If you’re a professor, researcher, instructor, or graduate student in philosophy or a related field, please take a moment to answer the question and click “done.”


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You are welcome to elaborate or explain your answer in the comments. I’ll share the poll results in a follow-up post.

UPDATE (2/8/21): Poll results here.

The post When Will You Be Able and Willing to Travel for Work Again? (updated) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Examining the Future of Academic Events (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 7:39pm in

Following up on yesterday’s piece regarding online conferences, Heather Douglas, professor of philosophy at Michigan State University, in this guest post,* asks us to consider: “When is it worth it (in terms of financial and environmental cost) to gather together in person?”

Examining the Future of Academic Events
by Heather Douglas

The COVID-19 pandemic has produced an unprecedented change in academic practice. It used to be travel difficulties would cancel speaking events. Online meetings were rare, usually one-on-one or small group stopgap measures until we could meet in person.

The stringencies of the pandemic have forced a change in academic culture, and one which requires our examination and reflection. While many have missed the in-person meeting and traveling, many have breathed a sigh of relief at the easing of travel demands. Many have also noted the drop in carbon footprint of academic activities, and seen signs for hope.

As the end of the pandemic appears in sight (sometime in 2021 hopefully), we now need to reflect upon this period of transformation and ask seriously: what worked well in videoconferencing and what is lost?

There is much to be gained from events that take place solely online. It is clear that purely videoconferenced events are less expensive to run than purely in-person events, both from a financial perspective and from an environmental impact perspective. They also enable people who are unable to travel (due to disability, family restrictions, financial and time constraints, etc.) to participate on an equal footing. This has broadened (and often increased) participation in a number of events. Online events also offer easy recording and archiving for future use.

Running online only events requires some practice shifts. Being online is tiring, and events need to be more spaced out, with substantial breaks. Because we are not gathering together, there is no need to compress events into consecutive days. We can space out themed events over days or weeks for a “conference.” We must be mindful of time zone differences in scheduling (this difficulty is mitigated somewhat by recording and posting events). New conference platforms can reproduce the serendipity of conversation that arises from self-organized social groups (e.g. Spatial Chat).

Given these advantages of online only events, particularly well-curated ones, we need to think carefully about what the advantages are of in-person events. When is it worth it (in terms of financial and environmental cost) to gather together in person? We cherish the serendipitous meetings and hallway conversations of in-person events, but some of that can be captured online with platforms more flexible than Zoom.

Rather than a norm of in-person events, the pandemic has given us the opportunity to shift the burden of justification to why an event needs to be in-person. What is gained by the additional expense (financial, environmental, accessibility reduction) of the in-person event? Thinking carefully about this will allow for better decisions about academic event planning. The normal baseline should not simply move back to what it was pre-pandemic. The new normal of online only events should be the baseline, and we should ask, specifically and clearly, what motivates in-person events in the post-pandemic world.

There are clear reasons to meet in person in many cases. For example, when research involves interacting with a specific location (such as a particular ecosystem), meeting in person on that landscape has clear advantages. In addition, when workshops require creative and active participation, generating collaboration facilitated through shared physical materials, holding them in-person can be essential. Another reason for in-person meetings is the commitment in participation that being in-person produces. It is relatively easy to walk away from an online event compared to walking away from an in-person conference. The intensity of such events, and the ability of participants to carve time out to focus on the event, is part of their value. Other important aspects of in-person events need to be articulated, scrutinized, and weighed carefully.

Finally, there are reasons to be cautious about hybrid events. Those who participate remotely in such events are sidelined generally—the people on the screen are just not as engaging as those in the room, and the conversations that happen once the official parts of the program are over are inaccessible to those online. While hybrid events allow those who cannot travel to participate to some extent, it is not on an equal footing with those present in person. Hybrid events also add significantly to the cost of in-person events, because the technology is rarely in place for supporting such events in meeting rooms (at least for free).

In sum, the new normal should be online only events, with clear justifications offered for in-person events. What those justifications are needs to be elaborated, with the aim of making our academic events better across the board.

The post Examining the Future of Academic Events (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Online Conferences: The New Default (guest post)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 2:08am in

In the following guest post,* a group of scholars make the case that the online conferences, the recent prevalence of which has been spurred by pandemic precautions, should be “the new default.”

Online Conferences: The New Default

by Rose Trappes (Bielefeld), Daniel Cohnitz (Utrecht),
Viorel Pâslaru (Dayton), T.J. Perkins (Utah),
and Ali Teymoori (Helmut-Schmidt)

As vaccines roll out and the corona pandemic looks to have an end in sight, academics face a choice. Should we move back to in-person meetings, or should we continue online? The global shift to online conferences, reading groups, teaching and meetings forced by the pandemic has been welcomed by some, but there were a number of cancellations and concerned voices suggesting that video calls are no good alternative to in-person meetings.

In a paper just out in the European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, we argue that philosophers should embrace online conferences as the new default for reasons of sustainability, accessibility for minorities in philosophy, and lowering the financial burden of conference organisation and attendance. We present survey data from four online conferences: The European Congress for Analytic Philosophy, and the colloquia Doing Science in a Pluralistic Society, Eco-Evo Mechanisms, and Philosophy of Biology at the Mountains. Our data indicate that online conferences are satisfactory in terms of sharing knowledge and getting feedback and seem to be more accessible, falling down only in networking. In-person conferences, we conclude, should in the future be restricted to limited and well-justified departures from a new normal of online conferencing.

As well as arguing for more online conferencing, we provide some guidance for organising a good online conference. Some of this comes from our data. Our survey compared a large conference in which speakers pre-recorded their talks to several small conferences in which the talks were live. We found that both pre-recorded and live talks were seen as largely satisfactory by both presenters and audience members. We also found that participants prefer to have networking in small groups (using functions like breakout rooms in Zoom), such as coffee breaks, happy hours or group work. Based on our experience, we outline two models for online conferences with pre-recorded or live talks.

We also asked participants of the smaller conferences how various factors affected the accessibility of the online conferences (see Figure 1). The majority felt that reduced travel, working from home, and lower costs enabled them to attend, and some also cited not having to worry about venue accessibility and being able to watch recordings.

On the other hand, we also got an idea of factors that can limit attendance, such as time zone, conflict with other work, and day length. Some of these indicate special requirements for online conferences, such as having shorter days, longer and more frequent breaks, and scheduling to enable people from different time zones to join in. In supplementary material for the paper we also include some more specific tips for organisers of online conferences based on our own experience.

Figure 1. The percentage of participants that agree that the positive (left, pink bars) and negative (right, blue bars) factors affected their ability to participate in the conference.

It remains to be seen what will happen once lockdowns cease and borders open. We provide three reasons for continuing online conferences even after the pandemic has subsided.

First, there is the environmental justification. Online conferences drastically reduce pollution – up to 3,000 times – that otherwise would be produced by an in-person event. Most philosophers are committed to social justice and have accepted the findings and recommendations of the IPCC. Philosophers ought to limit harmful pollution produced by their academic activities, including conference participation, and off-set whatever pollution cannot be avoided.

Some philosophers have joined a growing number of scientists who refuse to fly to conferences, so-called conscientious climate change objectors. However, most major professional philosophy associations have not yet implemented measures to prevent and off-set carbon emissions. Some plan to discuss such measures, while for others it seems the issue is not even on the table. Many philosophers continue to engage in business as usual, a practice and attitude that they wholeheartedly despise when it comes from the mouths of climate change skeptics. Adopting the online-first model of conferences will allow philosophers to close the wide gap between their public defense of environmental causes and their actual actions.

The second group of reasons comprises issues of accessibility. Online conferences reduce the burden on scholars from less wealthy countries to seek visas for conference travel, as well as enabling participation for researchers with disabilities and scholars who have primary caregiving responsibilities. We hope that facilitating conference attendance from these groups will help to address some of the inequalities present in philosophical career progression.

The third rationale pertains to financial issues. Many universities have reported decreased budgets because of the pandemic. Budget shortfalls will negatively affect travel budgets, placing greater financial burdens on scholars to attend conferences. Given that some universities require faculty members to participate in conferences for the purpose of tenure or promotion, online conferences allow these scholars to fulfill their institutional expectations without experiencing a financial burden.

Philosophers and other academics should take the natural experiment that the pandemic brought about as an opportunity to build interdisciplinary work groups to study and establish best practices for online conferences, environmentally friendly and accessible in-person conferences, and adequate ways to offset carbon emissions.

We believe that philosophers ought to face up to the responsibility of tackling climate change and improving the lot of philosophers outside traditional conferencing areas, philosophers with disabilities, and primary caregivers. Doing so involves offering more online conferences, as well as implementing or continuing measures to offset emissions and improve accessibility for minorities in philosophy for both traditional and online meetings.

It is also a task for philosophers and other scientists to reckon with how to improve the quality of networking in online conferencing or to think of new ways to organise conferences such as combined online and in-person conferencing or multiple-site options that reduce distances travelled by individual researchers. Given the relative recency of online conferencing and the urgency of living up to sustainable and responsible research practices, it is perhaps time to approach critically our traditional ways of conferencing, information sharing and networking and to not only make use of online conferencing but also engage in the process of improving it.

The post Online Conferences: The New Default (guest post) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Will Conferences Recover? Should They?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 17/11/2020 - 4:47am in

With promising news of a vaccine, one might hope not just for saved lives, but a return to “normal life,” including the regular features of academic work. Among these are the typically in-person events of conferences, workshops, and talks.

The pandemic has resulted in these academic gatherings being either cancelled or moved online (for example), the development of technology and norms for online events, and thoughts about how to organize virtual events well.

There is no doubt that the familiarity with online events forced upon us by the pandemic has its good side. Such events can be less costly, more convenient, more accessible to a broader range of participants, and better for the environment—and that we are all used to them means we will see more and more of them.

But it would be a pity if the pandemic killed off all in-person conferences.

We can see this by asking, first, what do we want out of conferences? Some of these things online events can provide, such as the opportunity to present one’s work to others for criticisms and suggestions. But that is not all that conferences are about. There are the professional friendships that develop by being in the same place for for an extended period of time, talking philosophy but also getting to know each other as persons, which in turn can inform, enrich, and encourage subsequent philosophical interactions.

But we can also ask what we want out of our jobs as academics. Being able to see parts of the world you otherwise might not be able to afford to travel to is part of the attraction of job that pays relatively modestly for the amount of time spent training for it. For many, travel is a key perk of the position, and for some, travel funds are part of the compensation package. If virtual events supplant in-person ones, then many professors’ jobs get worse.

Helen De Cruz (St. Louis University) recently conducted an informal poll on Twitter about whether online conferences are a viable alternative to in-person events:

She discusses the results at The Philosophers’ Cocoon. I agree that, as she says “online conferences can be a viable, carbon-friendly supplement to conferencing we do in person.”

I just hope that once it is safe to meet in person again, our employers see the value in facilitating and funding our ability to do so.

The post Will Conferences Recover? Should They? appeared first on Daily Nous.

New COVID-19 Security Measures Will Make Health a Prerequisite for Travel

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/10/2020 - 6:56am in


News, Travel

Imagine standing at a TSA security checkpoint on your way home for the holidays. You’re getting ready to go through the awkward travel procedures instituted almost immediately after 9/11 when the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA) was created and air travel in the United States morphed into a search and seizure operation with the implied possibility of your detention and interrogation.

The initial outrage such expressions of implicit state violence caused early on eventually gave way to begrudging acceptance. But now, a new layer of “security,” that could restrict freedom of movement even further, is being rolled out at several ports of entry in partnership with health technology industry leaders, academic institutions, and government health entities in more than three dozen countries.

A new digital certificate called CommonPass, designed to serve as a clearance mechanism for passengers based on a health diagnosis underwent its first transatlantic test on October 21 under the watchful eye of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Heathrow Airport in London. There, a group of select participants embarked on United flight 15 to Newark, New Jersey after being screened and tested for COVID-19 at the point of departure in a largely ceremonial exercise that included initiative co-founders, Paul Meyer and Bradley Perkins.

The app’s first trial run took place with much less media fanfare last month on a Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Hong Kong to Singapore and marked the beginning of the CommonPass pilot project launched by The Commons Project non-profit organization in-tandem with the World Economic Forum.

Travel industry insiders claim that CommonPass will allow international travel to resume before a COVID-19 vaccine is made widely available by applying standard methods for certification of lab results and vaccination records of travelers through the CommonPass Framework, based on criteria set by the governments of each port of entry.

CommonPass Overview

A graphic from a Commons Project presser lays out the basics of the CommonPass

J.D. O’Hara, CEO of one of the world’s largest travel services companies and one of the participants at Wednesday’s CommonPass trial run, hailed the app’s ability to “verify health

information in a secure, verified manner,” while Roger Dow of the U.S. Travel Association released a statement praising it for paving a “way forward” for the global economy in the wake of the pandemic.

As the multi-sector, global response to the coronavirus tightens the noose around civil liberties, CommonPass stands out as one of the most appalling and dangerous attacks on basic human rights in the name of public health and is rife with a potential for abuse so great, that it behooves us to find out more about the people and interests behind it.


Feudal revivalists

In medieval times, the ‘commons’ denoted the de facto and collective ownership of land, which peasants used to plow, sow and harvest or raise sheep and cattle. The rise of the land-owning classes in post-Magna Carta Europe, and England in particular, slowly eviscerated this form of communal privilege through the enclosure system, which redistributed the commons to the proto-capitalist class in partnership with the monarchies and create the system of oppressive labor exploitation known as feudalism.

Starting in 1604, the Enclosure Acts of England created legal property rights for land that had belonged to the farmers and shepherds, forming the basis of modern-day capitalism. Today, that scene is being repeated as the Internet, an information ‘commons’ is being carved out by Big Tech and led by organizations like The Commons Project, which avails itself of a name that connotes the total opposite of its purpose.

Co-founders Paul Meyer and Bradley Perkins are the non-profit’s CEO and Chief Medical Officer, respectively. Perkins began his career over thirty years ago at the Center for Disease Control and, for nearly a decade, worked at the RAND corporation’s health care policy division, RAND Health Advisory Board. Meyer, for his part, is a Yale law school graduate, who was writing President Clinton’s speeches years before receiving his graduation diploma from the storied institution. Both have extensive career histories in the fields of health and technology, though in very different areas and with strange bedfellows along the way.

In 2009, Perkins became the Chief Technology Officer for a publicly-traded cross-national operator of hospitals and clinics called Vanguard Health Systems. Vanguard had been established with funding from Morgan Stanley and controlled by the Blackstone Group since 2004, maintaining control all though the company’s IPO in 2011. Two years later, Vanguard was acquired by Tenet Healthcare, creating the third-largest investor-owned hospital company in the United States with a total of 65 hospitals nationwide and over 500 healthcare facilities.

Paul Meyer CommonPass

Paul Meyer, center, is pictured in a screenshot of a media briefing touting CommonPass

Besides being one of the biggest healthcare companies in the United States, Tenet is also one of the most notoriously corrupt. The same year it bought Vanguard, it was slapped with a major whistleblower complaint that disclosed the company’s fraudulent practices. That lawsuit resulted in a $514 million settlement. A more recent case involving a conspiracy between Oklahoma orthopedic surgeons at one of its facilities was settled for $66 million in 2019. But, Tenet’s problems go back even further to the early 2000s when fraud and performing unneeded surgeries led to a multitude of lawsuits and even a Senate investigation.

The Vanguard deal marked the end of Perkins’ tenure there, who chose to take a $1.9 million package instead of joining the newly merged conglomerate like its CEO and much of its staff did. He would move on to create a company of his own called Sapiens Data Science; a health tech platform that provides access to “credible scientifically validated data algorithms” and looks to create a “new revolutionary health ecosystem.”

Meyer’s background is more complicated, and his arrival on the healthcare scene runs through different channels linked to American intelligence cover operations dating back to NATO’s war in Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia during the early Clinton years. It is his involvement with an infamous human-trafficking outfit known as the International Rescue Committee or IRC, that should be cause for concern given his role in The Commons Project and flagship CommonPass app.


The Meyer of Kosovo

Before he was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum or Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, and even before becoming a Term Member of the Council on Foreign Relations and receiving MIT’s 2003 Humanitarian of the Year award, Paul Meyer found himself in war-torn Kosovo installing a new Internet infrastructure system to replace the one destroyed in the war, only days after NATO bombs had stopped shelling the Serbian people.

Barely out of law school and having spent two years writing President Clinton’s speeches as the conflict in the former Yugoslavia was transpiring, Meyer was tapped by the IRC to lead a UN and private relief effort called the Internet Projekti Kosova (IPKO) or Kosovo Internet Project, with tech-savvy local Akan Ismaili to handle the complex technical issues and Teresa Crawford from the Advocacy Project to “uplink” satellites in the region with the stated purpose of reuniting displaced Albanian families. The system was set up atop a building used by the British KFOR Civil-Military Cooperation CIMIC and British Royal Engineers were also brought onto the project, among others.

Eventually, the IRC gave the project to a non-profit organization “dedicated to providing wide access to the Internet in Kosovo.” IPKO is today the largest telecom, internet, and cable TV company in Kosovo. Meyer remains involved through the IPKO Foundation, which he co-founded to provide “free technology education” to Kosovar students.

By the 1950s, the IRC was known to be an “integral link” in the CIA’s covert network led by Tony Blair protégé and former British Foreign Minister, David Miliband since 2013. In 2018, the IRC was embroiled in a child-sex trafficking scandal dubbed the “sex-for-food scandal” covered extensively by Whitney Webb in a recent article. The organization’s cover-up of dozens of sex abuse, bribery and fraud allegations resulted in the U.K. government withdrawing its funding from the organizations. However, no IRC employees were prosecuted over the 37 incidents detailed in the report.

Currently, the IRC is very involved in the implementation of a biometric ID system for refugees of the ongoing conflict in Myanmar, a project funded by the Rockefeller Foundation-backed ID2020 Alliance, which also funds The Commons Project. IRC’s Mae La initiative, however, receives most of its funding through the notorious CIA-cutout USAID and intends to create a “blockchain-based digital identification” system using iris recognition technology to give refugees access to IRC’s services in Thailand. Long term goals include rolling health, work and financial data together into a single ID system, that will determine access to food, healthcare and mobility.


We want your DNA

The difference between IRC’s Mae La project and The Commons Project is a question of class. Class status, to be specific. But, it is essentially the same idea and covers the same interests of the groups and individuals who form part of the Commons Project’s board of trustees; many of whom have been part of the digital tracking and healthcare technology space for years.

People like Linda Dillman, who ran Wal-Mart’s implementation of RFID employee tracking technology as the retail giant’s CIO or the former Chief Technology Officer for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Bryan Sivak, who is now a Managing Director at Managing Director at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest healthcare insurance plan providers in the nation. Other trustee affiliations stand out, as well, such as Will Fitzpatrick, General Counsel to the Omidyar Network and George W. Bush’s Assistant Secretary of Defense, Health Affairs, Dr. William Winkenwerder, Jr.

At the core of these efforts is the desire to create a DNA-based population screening agenda, which people like Perkins and Meyer are forcefully pushing forward. Perkins worked as the CMO at a company called Human Longevity, Inc., which “combines state-of-the-art DNA sequencing and expert analysis with machine learning, to help change medicine to a more data-driven science.”

DNA sequencing

A microbiologist demonstrates a whole-genome DNA sequencing machine called a MiSeq at CDC HQ in Atlanta. David Goldman | AP

Meyer developed a precursor to CommonPass in 2016, when he merged his mobile health services company, Voxiva, which implemented the “first nationwide digital disease surveillance systems in Peru and Rwanda” in partnership with the CDC, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), with Sense Health to form a health messaging service called Wellpass Meyer described as “an integrated platform… [that] helps overcome the challenges of deploying fragmented engagement and population health solutions.”


Dubious technology

The reliability of the DNA-based, algorithmically-deduced health diagnoses used for the CommonPass trial run must also be called into question given the history of the company furnishing the technology. Prenetics, Ltd is the Hong Kong-based, Alibaba-funded company that also performed the COVID-19 testing for the UK’s Premier League’s Project Restart, which used a similar health status app called Covi-Pass, covered by this author in June.

Prenetics’ COVID tests rely on DNA-based technology it acquired in 2018, when it purchased DNAFit; a company founded by South African businessman Avrom “Avi” Lasarow, who came on board after the merger as Prenetics’ Chief Executive Officer for Europe, Middle East and Africa. Lasarow, who also heads the Premier League’s coronavirus testing program, just settled a civil case against him in the U.S. last May for nearly $60,000 surrounding allegations of “deceptive health claims”.

Lifestyle genetics pioneer” Lasarow has a long track record of settling out of court over such issues, including a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2015, which accused Lasarow Healthcare Technologies Ltd., aka L Health Ltd., and two other defendants of making false or unsubstantiated claims regarding a “melanoma detection” app. As part of that settlement, Lasarow was “prohibited from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any product or service.”

Prenetics has been reportedly working on establishing a partnership with VSTE Enterprises, the same company that developed the V-Code technology that underpins Covi-Pass, since May. Nevertheless, such red flags pale in comparison to the individuals and organizations that are behind CommonPass, itself, who have plans for a much vaster digital enclosure based on DNA population screening technologies through initiatives like the The Commons Project, which aims to fundamentally transform medicine and impose new limits on our freedom of movement as the CommonPass rollout is slated to quickly expand to other routes across Asia, Africa, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.


A common thread

Just as Bush’s Aviation and Transportation Security Act opened the doors for certain technology and security sectors to flourish in the wake of 9/11, this novel health-focused expansion of the national security state has bypassed all levers of democratic power to allow for the entrenchment of a far larger and more dangerous group of entities, within the health, technology and life sciences industries together with an increasingly more powerful clique of federal health agencies and officials, like Robert Kadlec, who are pushing for a full spectrum surveillance society.

Taking your shoes off at the airport and exposing your body to radiation has become routine now at every airport in the nation and most ‘temporary’ laws passed through emergency legislation remain on the books nearly two decades later. Precedent demands that we assume the same will occur with the majority of the new restrictions on our freedom of movement and quality of life currently being implemented throughout the country and the world.

Rolling back these draconian measures is not in any of their plans, as promised by the president of the U.S. Travel Association, Roger Dow, who confidently asserted after Wednesday’s successful CommonPass trail run, that the app will let us “navigate out of the crippling economic fallout of COVID-related travel restrictions and quarantine requirements,” adding that it will “pay further dividends for more seamless and convenient travel even once the pandemic has subsided.”

Feature photo | The CommonPass generated QR code is shown. Original image sourced from the Common Project

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post New COVID-19 Security Measures Will Make Health a Prerequisite for Travel appeared first on MintPress News.

Travel Photoblog II: France, October 1-6 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 09/10/2019 - 3:32am in

After Krok, I flew from Moscow to Paris via Helsinki. My destination was this conference in the Loire Valley.

My cheap Paris hotel was near this cemetery.

I stayed in Paris just long enough to meet sister radical feminist Cecilia for lunch at a crêperie near Gare Montparnasse.

Leaving Paris on a TGV. France has excellent trains that put the US to shame.

A double rainbow as seen from the train. A trainbow?

Changing trains in Tours.

French trains have dedicated bicycle areas, while in the US, I can’t even take my folded Brompton on a bus between Champaign and Indianapolis without the driver yelling at me.

From the taxi from in Saumur to l’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, I saw yet another rainbow.

The “royale” part of l’Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, the “palais” where artists-in-residence are housed.

Residents eat, chat, and do laundry in this common area. I was not a resident, just visiting to speak at the annual animation conference. But I had to do laundry after 10 days in Russia, so I used their washing machine.

A fresh batch of international animation residents had just arrived, and I joined them on this tour of l’Abbaye.

Cloisters galore.

The magnificent late-Romanesque cathedral.

More cloisters and animators.

The view from my window in the morning.

It looks so peaceful, doesn’t it? But they were doing construction most of the time, and the drone of power tools and compressors was nearly constant on weekdays.

The architecturally magnificent chimney towers of the ancient kitchen were under scaffolding and submitting to power tools as well. They say they’ll be done in 2021. I may apply to be a resident then so I can come back and see them in their full glory.

The conference opened with displays and presentations from the animators-in-residence. I didn’t take many pictures of the conference itself, and I have no photo from my own talk, with Jayne Piling, but it was apparently well received. I think my take on copyright abolition made some heads explode.

I got to eat breakfast at the swanky hotel, where they had this over-designed tableware. Instead of having a ridge like a normal saucer, this one had a curved cone protruding from its center, on which nestled the reciprocal inverted cone of the teacup.

It was design-for-design’s-sake, serving no purpose but to remind diners they were somewhere expensive, which was probably the point.

I took more photos around the ever-photogenic Abbey my last morning.

The French famously respect comics as an art form. In a bookshop in Saumur I came across this large hardbound graphic biography of George Orwell, among many other handsome and diverse comics.

After a few more French train rides I checked into this Ibis hotel at the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

It had a pretty good view, considering.

The next morning I took my cattle-class seat on the plane to Chicago, and now I’m back in Urbana, IL, which feels even less glamorous than it did before (which was not at all). Au revoir, France! Das vedanya, Russia!

Travel Photoblog: Krok, Russia, September 21-30, 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 08/10/2019 - 3:11am in


Festivals, Travel

Krok is an International animation festival that takes place on a riverboat in Russia or Ukraine or, in the past, both. Political issues have recently forced it to sail in Russia only, even as it continues to be organized by animators in both countries. This year it cruised from St. Petersburg to Moscow, making various scenic stops along the way. I was invited to lead the jury and watched lots of films between taking photos, trying to use the insecure internet in the bar, eating, rehearsing a song for “Carnival”, pretending to drink vodka, and sleeping.

On the drive in from the airport.

Our boat, the Konstantin Simonov, docked in St. Petersburg.

The hallway

My cabin

My cabin’s little bathroom.

A good omen: a rainbow the day before departure in St. Petersburg.

About 800 rubles (approximately $12.50) worth of snacks and provisions I purchased up the road from the boat in St. Petersburg. Those “CHAKA” peanuts-and-mixed-nuts snacks were the best. None of the energy bars tasted good, but I kept one on my person at all times to keep low blood sugar at bay.

A visit to St. Petersburg prior to the Festival Opening.

Distinguished jury members doing the mandatory lifejacket safety test.

Our Itinerary.

Our first stop, Mandrogi. Someone called it “Russian Disneyland”. Yes, it’s a tourist trap, but a rather charming one.

Mandrogi’s “Art Saloon” included this Matryoshka doll painting studio, proudly displaying photos of Putin’s visit a few years ago with his resultant masterpiece in the center.

I rented this bike for a few hundred rubles. Fun, and the only biking I got to do my entire trip.

The world-famous Vodka Museum. Every Russian tourist trap needs one, but Mandrogi’s was recently upgraded at great expense. I didn’t go inside because they charge for entry now. (I visited Krok in 2000, and Mandrogi and other tourist stops have been massively developed since then.)

Next stop: Kizhi Island and its magnificent wooden cathedral.

I remember this structure from 19 years ago. They’re doing a lot of reconstruction now.

Tourists everywhere, including me.

I thought this log “staircase” was cool.

Wood architecture on Kizhi.

I wanted to walk more on Kizhi, but had to turn back so I wouldn’t miss our departure.

Bye, Kizhi!

Fellow juror Isabelle, her Mann Jochen, and fellow juror Daniel “posed” for this photo in Petrozavodsk.

My Lovely Horse in a toy shop in Petrozavodsk.

A cold and rainy morning in Vytegra.

Animators just have to “pose” for every photo. On the right is fellow juror Svetlana, with her signature leg move.

Wood construction in Vytegra.

Our boat went through a lot of locks.

Deck view from inside a lock.

The scenery from my cabin window was ever-changing…

Out on Lake Something-or-Other

On Goritsky I took the tour of the monastery.

The monastery is on a small lake. I went off-tour for a while and passed this local who’d dismounted her bicycle to go fishing.

Back to the tour herd.

Back on board, we passed this church tower of a sunken city buried by a dam.

We all went out to take pictures of it. This was a rare moment the sun was out too.

A bit soured on tours after Goritsky, I didn’t keep up with the group in Dubna. This was my loss, because this tour was necessary and interesting, and I missed it. After getting lost, I found my way back to the boat and looked it up on Wikipedia:

Finally, we neared Moscow. Here’s fellow juror Ülo at breakfast.

After much deliberation, we made our selections as best we could and then signed a pile of certificates.

Then, Red Square w00t! I’d been to Red Square just a few months earlier, but was happy to see it again with my new friends.

You can’t have too many pictures of yourself standing in front of St. Basil’s cathedral.

Lenin’s Tomb was closed that day. Even a corpse needs a day off.

Moscow. I loved this Art deco building at the end of the street Ülo is walking down.

More Moscow.

And finally, the Moscow Airport, where I departed for Helsinki and then France. My next installment of photos will document the latter!