Seemingly chaotic events reflect normalcy of new reality

 

An Historical Inflection Point:

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The US Presidential Election and the Fianancial Tsunami

 

Austin, Texas, USA.   October 13, 2008. The worldwide financial tsunami that has captured the attention of the worldwide media (as well as governments, corporations and ordinary citizens), has come to dominate one of the great quadrennial media events of the post-Modern era.  No, we are not referring to the Olympics, most recently held in Beijing, or even football’s World Cup but, rather, the US Presidential elections.

The immediate effect of this unprecedented upheaval of global markets is the obfuscation of the clear lines of division offered by the opposing parties in the US Presidential Elections.

There is the sense that we are witnessing an unprecedented historical event; historical in the sense that we now appear to be standing astride (or atop) a cusp in history, a delta, a decision point, what is now called a point of inflection or inflection point.

Watching the nightly news and reading the traditional (for the last two centuries, that is) media, one has the distinct sense that what they perceive as unprecedented almost chaotic circumstances is actually that of the normalcy of the new reality, that of communications at the speed of light that the internet has foisted upon us. 

We keep hearing about this most unusual of election cycles, but this is only true when looking through the prism (and historical construct) of the traditional news gathering operations. What is called the 24-hour News Cycle is actually just the tip of the Tsunami washing over the planet at a steady speed and ever-quicker pace.  Indeed, the nature of the beast hasn’t change at all.  It is our outdated techniques, that haven’t kept up with the new reality:  News now emanates at the speed of thought, from tens of thousands or, even, millions of sources.

The nature of a Tsunami is little understood other than the tremendous damage it unleashes when it washes ashore.  What we do know, however, is that a tsunami travels in exceedingly long waves (tens of kilometers in length) racing through the oceanic depths at hundreds of kilometers per hour.  Only upon reaching the shore is its true destructive power unleashed for all to see (if they survive to witness it at all). 

In the same manner, the traditional media become transfixed with the roiling surface seas but fail to acknowledge the more sustained and significant, movements occurring just beneath the surface.

The surface swirls about in fascinating eddies, but the true transformation is occurring as the nearly undetectable waves rush through the open sea only occasionally, though dramatically, making their way onto shore. 

In the same manner, the traditional media focuses on the Twenty-four-hour News Cycle but seem to miss the strong and prevalent currents immediately beneath the surface.  They vainly attempt to tie global, transformative, and unprecedented events to relatively parochial events and forces (the Reagan Years, the Clinton administration, Bush 41 and 43, the de-regulation initiatives of Alan Greenspan of  ‘99) that are being all but over-shadowed (and –whelmed) by unyielding and all-but irresistible forces.

There is an almost palpable sense and correct sense that things are 1) changing forever, 2) out of our control (or even influence), and 3) will have a direct impact upon the planet for generations to follow.

What we can control, and make sense of, however, is a candidate’s wink, smirk or disdainful reference.  We can emphatically pin down our opponents into convenient sound bites, hopefully contradicting earlier sound bites.  Do you personally take responsibility for Climate Change?  (Does the fact that New York City was beneath 5,000 feet of Ice a few dozen centuries ago influence your vote today? A yes or no will suffice!)  Is your personal philosophy, whatever it might be, grounded in a belief system that I can systematically debunk and demean.  (Yes or no.)  Are you for or against atom smashers creating miniscule black holes that may or may not swallow up the Earth?   (Answer yes and you are a barbarian; answer no and you have absolutely no respects of the future prospects of the human race.)  Did you ever consider yourself a loser (at any point in your life)?  Did you ever make the acquaintance of fellow losers? 

Nevertheless, the US Presidential Election will proceed to its own conclusion on the first Tuesday of November in the year two thousand and eight.

For the preceding five years, The Global Language Monitor has attempted to clarify the course (and future course) of human events as documented in the English language.

The tools at our disposal have sometimes allowed us to peer into events and trends that become, otherwise, obscured, by the ‘noise’ of the Twenty-four Hour News Cycle.

Our goal was, and continues to be, to extricate (and explicate upon) the true currents underpinning the events we call news, and to better understand what they mean and how they are perceived with the new media reality in mind.

For example, back in the days preceding the 2004 Presidential election cycle, GLM discovered the fact that once ideas, words and phrases were launched into the vast, uncharted, oceanic Internet, they do not, indeed, die out after twenty-four hours but, rather, travel in deep, powerful currents and waves (not unlike those of a tsunami) that only grow stronger as they make their ways to distant shores.

In this new reality, tsunami-like ideas pass through vast seas of information of the Internet, nearly undetected and often unmeasured, until they crash upon our shorelines, where their full power (and possibly fury) is unleashed.

The fact that we only entertain them for 24 hours before they are dispatched into the archives of what is considered ‘past’ or ‘passed’ and readily discarded, is beyond the point.

We often hear that ‘we’ve never seen anything like this’ before.  Of course not.  Think back a few hundred years to other information revolutions, such as that introduced along with mechanical type.  What do you think the fortunate few thought when they first laid their eyes upon the works of Aristotle, the Bible, or the Arabic translations of Euclid?  No one had ever seen anything like that before!  Indeed.

And astonishment will only become more so as the future unfolds.

 

– Paul JJ Payack, President & Chief Word Analyst, The Global Language Monitor

For mor information, call +1.512.815.8836 or email info@languagemonitor.com.



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Spread the word: English is unstoppable by Neil Reynolds


Spread the word: English is unstoppable

By NEIL REYNOLDS, The Globe and Mail

OTTAWA — California-based [Word Analyst] Paul Payack expects the English language to gain its one-millionth word this autumn. The language has come a long way indeed, as the English would say, in 400 years. In 1582, the English grammarian Richard Mulcaster could say that the language was “of small reach, stretching no further than this island of ours, nay not there over all.” In 1582, though, William Shakespeare married Ann Hathaway — and the language itself has since flourished as magnificently as the playwright himself. More than one billion people now speak it. Another billion people are learning it. Not bad, indeed.

The British Council, an independent charitable organization, says the English language now has special status of one kind or another in 75 countries. That one-third of the world’s books are published in English. That two-thirds of all scientists read English. That three-quarters of the world’s mail is written in English. That four-fifths of all electronic communications are in English. That people who spend time in Britain simply to learn English spend $2-billion a year doing it.

Language is a fascinating thing, the most complex of human achievements, spontaneously evolved, one unique word or expression at a time, without government control — for that matter, without government interest (aside from official language status). It is true that more than 40 countries have established academic police forces to protect their languages. But these are, for the most part, reactionary institutions that seek to reverse the past rather than invent the future. Cardinal Richelieu was the first of the language cops, founding the illustrious L’Académie française in 1634 with a mandate “to give rules to our language, and to render it pure and elegant.” Time travel would have been a simpler assignment. Once the great language of diplomacy, the French language has been going through rough times. Indeed, France deemed it necessary a few years ago to amend its constitution, specifying French as the official language of the republic. By its nature, language is decentralized, independent and anarchic. Only in exceptional circumstances, is it pure and elegant. It is almost always out of control.

In the 18th century, the English language almost became the American language, escaping by the very skin of its teeth — itself one of those inspired English-only phrases devised by the translators of the King James version of the Bible. (In contrast, the Douay Bible expresses Job’s lament for his wasted body with the literal assertion that “nothing but lips are left about my teeth.”) In the century between the Revolutionary and Civil wars, American references to “the American language” abounded. In 1780, American envoy John Adams could write from France to lobby Congress for an American language academy, directed by learned Americans and empowered to “correct and improve” the young country’s rude misuse of the language. “English is destined to be more generally the language of the world,” he wrote, “than Latin in a previous age and French in the present age.”

North America gave English room to roam. In Mr. Mulcaster’s 1582, English was spoken by perhaps four million people. In Mr. Adams’s 1780, by perhaps 12 million. In Noah Webster’s 1828, on publication of The American Dictionary of the English Language, by perhaps 50 million. A century later, in H.L. Mencken’s rambunctious 1920s, on his publication of The American Language, by perhaps 200 million. With two billion now speaking it or learning to speak it, we can credibly imagine a genuine global language.

Some linguists say that three or four dominant “language brands” will emerge — Chinese and Spanish are most frequently suggested as rival global languages. (In any case, Canada will be competitive. Of the 100 languages used in Canada, Chinese is already No. 3, spoken by one million people.) Language has always been closely connected to patriotism, and almost always to a particular country. The English have always regarded “the American language” as essentially barbaric. Inevitably, in the 19th century, Americans came to regard their distinctive English as a unique language. In 1838, Indiana instructed its state university “to instruct the youth of the Commonwealth in the American language.” In 1854, secretary of state William Marcy ordered U.S. diplomatic missions to use only “the American language.”

Fifteen years ago, Robert MacNeil, the Canadian who for many years co-anchored The MacNeil/Lehrer Report on PBS, wrote his evocative memoir Wordstruck as a love story with the English language. In the end, looking retrospectively from his mother’s home in Halifax to the Atlantic, he says simply: “This is where I was first struck by words. This is where they made me more than a Canadian, an Englishman, or an American; or Scottish, or Irish, or German — all things my forebears were. This is where I became what [dissident Russian poet] Joseph Brodsky calls ‘a citizen of the great English language.’ ” It is this sense of the language that most fully expresses its dynamic.

English is to language as capitalism is to economics. It is the language
of laissez-faire, of enterprise — and, beyond all argument, of hope.



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Words of the H1N1Epidemic

Words of the Pandemic (Upated May 2, 2009)

This explainer will be expanded continuously as information on the Type A H1N1 Flu Pandemic becomes avaiable.

 

Media Alert:  If you need a customized version of this explainer, please call +1.512.815.8836

 

These are the technical definitions of the phases and the Planned US Federal Government response.

 

Term                                            Definition

20th Century Pandemics

1917 Pandemic — La Gripe Espanola or the “Spanish Flu”.   50 million or more died in the 1918 pandemic, up to 200,000 in the US.  Some 30% of the world’s population of 1.5 billion were infected.

1957 Pandemic — The “Asian Flu”  originated in China.  It had two major waves killing some 2 million people.

1968 Pandemic — The “Hong Kong Flu” spread globally for two years resulting in about  1 million deaths.

1976 faux Pandemic — First identified at Ft. Dix, NJ in a new recruit, the pandemic never unfolded.  The massive US immunization program resulted in about 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition that can be fatal.  About fifty deaths were reported. 

CDC – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Located in Atlanta, Georgia, the CDC is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Close Contact – One meter (about three feet) is often cited by infection control professionals to define close contact (based on studies of respiratory infections); for practical purposes, this distance may range up to 2 meters (six feet).  The World Health Organization says approximately one meter; the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidlelines state within 6 feet”. 

Epidemic — A disease occurring suddenly in humans in a community, region or country in numbers clearly in excess of normal. 

Facemask — A disposable mask cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a medical device.   Facemasks have several designs.  Held in place two ties, conforms to the face with the aid of a flexible adjustment for the nose bridge, and may be flat/pleated or duck-billed in shape; pre-molded, attached a single elastic band, and has a flexible adjustment for the nose bridge; and flat/pleated and attached  with ear loops. Facemasks cleared by the FDA for use as medical devices have been determined to have specific levels of protection from penetration of blood and body fluids.

Ground Zero — The location where the first case occurred.  The earliest confirmed case of the influenz A H1N1 has been traced to the village of La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico located south east of Mexico City.

H1N1 — See Influenza A H1N1.

Influenza — A serious disease caused by viruses that infects the upper respiratory tract.

 (Electron Microscope image of Influenza A H1N1 virus.)

Influenza A (H1N1) — The official name of what is commonly but inaccurately called ‘swine flu”.  The strain consists of four elements, one human, one avian, and two swine.  The World Health Organization began using this nomenclature on April 30, 2009.

Influenza Pandemic — A global outbreak of a new influenza ‘A’ virus that is easily transmitted from person-to-person worldwide.

Mutating Virus — In general, any flu virus mutates and evolves mechanisms that enable it to escape the immune defence systems of its victims.

Pandemic — The global outbreak of a disease in humans in numbers clearly in excess of normal. 

Pandemic Phases — WHO has divided pandemics into six phases.  (See Figure above.)

Pandemic Phase 1 — Low risk of human cases.  No viruses circulating among animals have been reported to cause infections in humans.

Pandemic Phase 2 — Higher risk of human cases.  An animal influenza virus circulating among domesticated or wild animals is known to have caused infection in humans, and is therefore considered a potential pandemic threat.

Pandemic Phase 3 — No or very limited human-to-human transmission.  An animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community-level outbreaks. Limited human-to-human transmission may occur under some circumstances, for example, when there is close contact between an infected person and an unprotected caregiver. However, limited transmission under such restricted circumstances does not indicate that the virus has gained the level of transmissibility among humans necessary to cause a pandemic.

Pandemic Phase 4 — Evidence of increased human-to-human transmission.  Human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic.

Pandemic Phase 5 — Evidence of significant human-to-human transmission.  Human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region (Figure 4). While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

Pandemic Phase 6   Efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission. The pandemic phase  is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.  [Editor's Note:  According to these stated criteria, the pandemic phase has already reached pandemic phase 6 on April 30, 2009.]

Respirator — Refers to an N95 or higher filtering facepiece respirator certified by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). 

rRT-PCR Swine Flu Panel diagnostic  test – A tool used to diagnose swine flu cases locally, thus speeding up the confirmation process.

Spanish Flu     Another name for the 1918 flu pandemic or La Gripe Espanola.

Swine Flu      Commonly used shorthand name for influenza A (H1N1) Symptoms — Body aches, fever, headaches, sore throat, body pain, chills and fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.        

Tamiflu and Relenza    In response to the request from CDC, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration , in has issued Emergency Use Authorizations  for the use of Relenza and Tamiflu antiviral products.   Tamiflu has been stockpiled by Homeland Security in the US.  For optimum efficacy, infected individuals should take it as early as possible.  It lessens the symptoms but is not a cure for Swine Flu.

WHO — Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization, is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.

   



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Words of the Pandemic

 

This Global Language Monitor Explainer will be expanded continuously as information on the new strains of Swine Flu (related to Type A H1N1) become available.

According to the CDC:  “Avian Influenza A (H7N9) Virus — Human infections with a new avian influenza A (H7N9) virus continue to be reported in China. The virus has been detected in poultry in China as well. While mild illness in human cases has been seen, most patients have had severe respiratory illness and some people have died.

No cases of H7N9 outside of China have been reported. The new H7N9 virus has not been detected in people or birds in the United States.”

Media Alert:  If you need a customized version of this explainer, please call +1.512.815.8836.

Below are the technical definitions of the phases and the Planned US Federal Government response.

A Glossary of other Pandemic-related terms follows.

 

 

 

Glossary

Term                                            Definition

  1. 20th Century Pandemics
  2. 1917 Pandemic — La Gripe Espanola or the “Spanish Flu”.   50 million or more died in the 1918 pandemic, up to 200,000 in the US.  Some 30% of the world’s population of 1.5 billion were infected.
  3. 1957 Pandemic — The “Asian Flu”  originated in China.  It had two major waves killing some 2 million people.
  4. 1968 Pandemic — The “Hong Kong Flu” spread globally for two years resulting in about  1 million deaths.
  5. 1976 faux Pandemic — First identified at Ft. Dix, NJ in a new recruit, the pandemic never unfolded.  The massive US immunization program resulted in about 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome, a neurological condition that can be fatal.  About fifty deaths were reported.
  6. CDC — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Located in Atlanta, Georgia, the CDC is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
  7. Close Contact – One meter (about three feet) is often cited by infection control professionals to define close contact (based on studies of respiratory infections); for practical purposes, this distance may range up to 2 meters (six feet).  The World Health Organization says approximately one meter; the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidlelines state within 6 feet”.
  8. Epidemic — A disease occurring suddenly in humans in a community, region or country in numbers clearly in excess of normal.
  9. Facemask — A disposable mask cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as a medical device.   Facemasks have several designs.  Held in place two ties, conforms to the face with the aid of a flexible adjustment for the nose bridge, and may be flat/pleated or duck-billed in shape; pre-molded, attached a single elastic band, and has a flexible adjustment for the nose bridge; and flat/pleated and attached  with ear loops. Facemasks cleared by the FDA for use as medical devices have been determined to have specific levels of protection from penetration of blood and body fluids.
  10. Ground Zero — The location where the first case occurred.  The earliest confirmed case of the influenz A H1N1 has been traced to the village of La Gloria in Veracruz, Mexico located south east of Mexico City.
  11. H1N1 — See Influenza A H1N1.
  12. Influenza — A serious disease caused by viruses that infects the upper respiratory tract.
  13. (Electron Microscope image of Influenza A H1N1 virus.)
  14. Influenza A (H1N1) — The official name of what is commonly but inaccurately called ‘swine flu”.  The strain consists of four elements, one human, one avian, and two swine.  The World Health Organization began using this nomenclature on April 30, 2009.
  15. Influenza Pandemic — A global outbreak of a new influenza ‘A’ virus that is easily transmitted from person-to-person worldwide.
  16. Mutating Virus — In general, any flu virus mutates and evolves mechanisms that enable it to escape the immune defence systems of its victims.
  17. Pandemic — The global outbreak of a disease in humans in numbers clearly in excess of normal.
  18. Pandemic Phases — WHO has divided pandemics into six phases.  (See Figure above.)
  19. Pandemic Phase 1 — Low risk of human cases.  No viruses circulating among animals have been reported to cause infections in humans.
  20. Pandemic Phase 2 — Higher risk of human cases.  An animal influenza virus circulating among domesticated or wild animals is known to have caused infection in humans, and is therefore considered a potential pandemic threat.
  21. Pandemic Phase 3 — No or very limited human-to-human transmission.  An animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community-level outbreaks. Limited human-to-human transmission may occur under some circumstances, for example, when there is close contact between an infected person and an unprotected caregiver. However, limited transmission under such restricted circumstances does not indicate that the virus has gained the level of transmissibility among humans necessary to cause a pandemic.
  22. Pandemic Phase 4 — Evidence of increased human-to-human transmission.  Human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic.
  23. Pandemic Phase 5 — Evidence of significant human-to-human transmission.  Human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region (Figure 4). While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.
  24. Pandemic Phase 6  —  Efficient and sustained human-to-human transmission. The pandemic phase  is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.  [Editor's Note:  According to these stated criteria, the pandemic phase has already reached pandemic phase 6 on April 30, 2009.]
  25. Respirator — Refers to an N95 or higher filtering facepiece respirator certified by the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  26. rRT-PCR Swine Flu Panel diagnostic  test – A tool used to diagnose swine flu cases locally, thus speeding up the confirmation process.
  27. Spanish Flu   —   Another name for the 1918 flu pandemic or La Gripe Espanola.
  28. Swine Flu   —   Commonly used shorthand name for influenza A (H1N1) Symptoms — Body aches, fever, headaches, sore throat, body pain, chills and fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.
  29. Tamiflu and Relenza  —  In response to the request from CDC, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration , in has issued Emergency Use Authorizations  for the use of Relenza and Tamiflu antiviral products.   Tamiflu has been stockpiled by Homeland Security in the US. For optimum efficacy, infected individuals should take it as early as possible.  It lessens the symptoms but is not a cure for Swine Flu.
  30. WHO — Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the World Health Organization, is the directing and coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system.
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