In Search of a Haplotype

The new variant of the virus has already spread out to over 45 countries. While scientists are understanding the impact of the mutant variants, what should we do as individuals and societies to counter the potential threat from the virus?

In this article, I have provided an insight on personal and administrative/social preparation that needs attention.

(Word Count 942, reading time 4 -5 minutes).

By now, we all know the virus is mutating, and mutating every few weeks. For those who are not aware of what a mutation is, it is a change in the genetic program embedded within the virus. However, only a few mutations have possible implications on the infectivity, ability to induce severity, response to the drug, and the response to vaccines. All of these are critical for individuals, families, and society in general. Of course, everything is intertwined and ultimately has an impact on the socioeconomic structure. We have seen the devastation of several families. When the virus went on the rampage, we saw how the economies faltered and GDP’s collapse.

Variants and their implications

We all know that the UK, EU, and the US are badly reeling under the virus. Hospital beds and ICU bed availability in many regions are critically stretched, and so are the human resources like HCW. London Mayor Sadik has already implemented a lockdown with punitive citations for overriding the lockdown. Rightly so, despite our freedom mongering and yearning for personal freedom, we ultimately land up with the hospitals.

At least three variants are known with possible implications on the infectivity, severity of the disease, resistance to drugs, and efficacy of the vaccines. N501, B1.1.1.7, D614G and A222 are mainly prevalent in the UK, South Africa, and the EU. All these variants are known to be more contagious than the wild type, that is universally prevalent. Also, a collaborative study between Duke University, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sheffield University has revealed that D614G variant is associated with higher viral loads in the upper respiratory tract. As of now, we are not yet sure if there is a variant that exists in LA and other parts of the US that are reeling under the virus. At least 45 countries have so far reported the presence of these new variants as of Jan 10, 2021. The National Laboratories from individual countries are searching for the virus’s existence within their societies and implications if any.

Japanese National Institute of Infectious Disease has similarly identified a new strain after the Japanese Government realized passengers’ arrival with the variant viruses. Naturally, the imposition of a ban on incoming flights from infected countries is the first knee jerk response. Many countries have reimposed the ban on travel from those countries with the presence of this virus. While the respective Governments are working to identify the new virus variants, individuals and the administration should gear up to deal with the increased threat level.

Credits: News Medical Lifesciences, Dr. Liji Thomas, MD. D614G mutation now the dominant variant in the global COVID-19 pandemic
  1. Individually, we all should follow the precautions stringently. Masks, social distancing, and containment strategies such as quarantine are basic. However, never presume that asymptomatic individuals are non-infectious. Research has proven without a doubt that asymptomatics are the ones who are spreading the virus. It goes beyond saying that kids harbor more viruses and remain asymptomatic. Kindergarten and schools can be the potential source of spread. While many schools have opted to go into virtual schooling, it is challenging for the daycare centers to do so. It is best to huddle into your bubble and only interact when it is essential or critical, understanding that those interactions should follow the strictest precautions mentioned above.

Vaccines
Vaccines are derived based on a certain genotype of the virus. If the virus changes its structure, the vaccines may have a potential dent in its efficacy. Second, vaccines, even if they are efficacious, may protect only the ones who are vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals may still harbor the virus. Thus, protection has to continue despite vaccines.

  1. City and Corporation Planning – Many cities, especially in South East Asia, are basking and boasting their success with COVID-19. COVID-19, as well all know, can strike back anytime. Complacency is not alone a defunct but also a counterproductive strategy. Europe and other countries undergoing a severe COVID-19 pandemic spike have realized how the spike overstretches the HCW. Doctors are overburdened, and so are the supporting staff.

Realistic modeling of the unfolding second spike is critical. R Naught, which was widely used at the pandemic initiation, has been revealed to have several flaws. It only threw our economy into shambles and society into unrequired chaos. Newer modeling that is closer to realism is the need of the time.

Second, the infrastructure that was propped up during the pandemic’s initial phase helped but was not necessarily sufficient. We need to identify a more long term viable solution to our healthcare services to deal with the virus. Using the same knee jerk response is unlikely to provide an adequate safeguard. Mere lockdowns are too insufficient and, at best knee jerk; we need more than a rational response, now that we know the pandemic better from our recent experience.

  1. Society – Herd Immunity
    Sweden, the UK, and the US are great examples that serve as potent examples that herd immunity is not enough. It does not offer protection without collateral. The collateral is the death and devastation of an individual with a permanent compromise with residual sequelae on health. Those who survived COVID-19 are physically either compromised in functioning or occasionally rendered dependent on supplemental oxygen.

The only and ultimate panacea would be a natural selection of a haplotype (a genotype) that would be less infective, cause inconsequential disease, and still respond to drugs and vaccines. The emergence of such strains is a natural selection process. The virus will possibly realize that if it has to cohabitate like several other bugs, in a symbiotic relationship with human beings.

Shashank Heda, MD.
Dallas, Texas
(For COVIDRxExchange, a global nonprofit initiative for disseminating insight and expertise in the care of COVID)

https://www.lanl.gov/discover/news-release-archive/2020/July/0702-newer-variant-covid-dominates-infections.php

https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200925/D614G-mutation-now-the-dominant-variant-in-the-global-COVID-19-pandemic.aspx

Rubber Meets the Road.

Let’s start where I want to end this topic, and I know you won’t like me saying this. The pandemic is likely to swagger around more than anticipated. If we anticipated it to end sooner, if not early 2021, it bores disappointment. It’s just not the delay in rolling out the vaccine. Let’s see the multitude of issues why the pandemic is likely to last longer.

Vaccine Nationalism is an integrated world is unlikely to protect a nationality unless the borders are strictly closed. Well, any isolationism and walls are unlikely to stop the Humboldt of global integration. If the rich or the have (those with technology), are planning to cover their nationals, the virus is likely to linger longer in those deprived.

What are the consequences?

Most of us are aware of the new mutations in the virus that imposed an immediate lockdown in the UK. This mutant variant is secondary to the virus gaining survival by mutating and escaping. Such mutants are like to hamper our interventions right from screening to vaccination.

Is it a global vaccine rollout?

Of course nor, the vaccine rollout has started in the EU, UK, US, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Japan, China, and a select few countries. However, several countries are lagging behind either because they have no funds or no technology or logistics to deploy a complex vaccine delivery program. Add to that the regular protagonist of the ‘conspiracy theory’ school, and you compound the problem to a level of practical reality.

Surprise – Many doctors are evading vaccine

I was surprised to see practicing doctors avoiding vaccines. This is not an isolated but a pervasive phenomenon. There are still lingering doubts about the virus getting integrated into the human genome, which is unlikely to happen. Another misconception is heavy metal contamination of the vaccine. You and I are more exposed to the unknown quantity of heavy metals in our produce from Mexico or the disposable material we are exposed to. First, I may disagree if such contaminations are possible with the vaccines, and even if those were, it is unlikely that you get a significant dose to perturb your system. Another misconception that is going around – that the vaccine is made in cow or pig. I just piety these folks who work on churning the rumors mills devoid of research, reasoning, and rationale.

The cold chain and logistics

It is a formidable challenge to manage the cold chain in a diverse world like ours, even if we presume that vaccination will be adopted uniformly. Having worked as a molecular oncology fellow, I know that especially the RNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer need a distinct cold chain, and any disruption is likely to compromise the efficacy of the vaccine significantly. Now consider the vast and remote corners where the vaccines have to be carried out if we were to target complete eradication of the virus.

These are not easily surmountable challenges and devoid of a strategy and execution plan that is customized to individual locales (countries, regions, etc.), it is unlikely to achieve the desired goal of covering 60%-80% population. If the virus lingers, it will mutate and likely stay with humanity for longer than the expected period of time. It will evade our detection gold standard, such as RT PCR. It may create resistance to drugs such as Remdesevir, or worst, become more aggressive and, last, render our vaccines useless. That’s why we vaccinate ourselves annually for flu.

Let us hope for the best.

Hope is not the best strategy; instead, hope is the worst strategy. A thorough understanding of the global target population dynamics vis a vis the vaccination program is required. Strategies alone cannot help; execution of the plan will be the harbinger to success. Until then…

I wish you all a very safe 2021!

Shashank Heda,

Dallas, Texas

Sleep Walking

Let’s scratch the surface

You all know how the bulls are raging on the stock markets globally. Most indices have skyrocketed while the economies of the world are reeling under covid.

Credits: Ben Carlson, https://fortune.com/2019/10/29/stock-market-rally-2019-christmas-eoy/

In a world full of non-ideal things, this one is no outlier, not because the markets display anomalous behavior but because the sentiments are so disconnected from the ground realities.

They say Covid is a disease of the affluent. Though I may disagree with that observation, however, stock market sentiments are the affluent’ sentiments. None of us want to see it lose, so we succumb to sentiments than the bottom line of individual companies comprising the index.

What’s so wrong if stocks are rising, especially in a sagging economy?

Absolutely a great question. Let’s understand the dichotomy and the disconnect. Presume my shares from a listed company shot up by 27% in the last nine months; obviously, I gained those. That offers a relative advantage over those struggling to survive and sustain.

However, let’s understand the stimulus bill. If only we have a great economy, ideally, we would not have the required stimulus. Interest rates would not have been low, millions would not have defaulted on their payments and mortgages, and unemployment would have been on the decline.

When the indicators are not connected with the ground reality, we are bound to land up in a ditch. Just imagine my leg is on the gas paddle, and I am pressing it hard; my car is cruising at astonishing speed, but the indicator says 22 mph.

When the indicators do not capture realities, we live in the castle, when the bourgeoisie falter, that revolutions are born. To douse the fire, we provide stimulus and subsidies. The vicious cycle keeps going endless while we churn a class of have-nots and increase the chasm with the have’s.

https://fortune.com/2019/10/29/stock-market-rally-2019-christmas-eoy/

Global stock markets form K-shape as investors search for growth
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Datawatch/Global-stock-markets-form-K-shape-as-investors-search-for-growth

Emergent Variants and Infectivity

SARS CoV2 is continuously mutating. However, at least three mutations are known to have an impact on various aspects of the pandemic. N501V1.0, B.1.1.7, and D614G each have an impact on the pandemic. These mutations may impact the diagnostic testing, severity, infectivity, efficacy of the vaccine, modulating the effect of medicines (such as Remdesivir) and finally, recalibrating the policies. Thus, the most appropriate action immediately after understanding the new variant is to evaluate the potential impact on public health. (898 words, reading time 4-5 minutes).

SARS CoV2 is continuously mutating. However, at least three mutations are known to have an impact on various aspects of the pandemic. N501V1.0, B.1.1.7, and D614G each have an impact on the pandemic. These mutations mat impact the diagnostic testing, severity, infectivity, efficacy of the vaccine, modulating the effect of medicines (such as Remdesivir) and finally, recalibrating the policies. Thus, the most appropriate action immediately after understanding the new variant is to evaluate the potential impact on public health.

(Credits: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19818-2)

Recently, at least two aggressive variants have been identified, one in the UK N501V1.0 and the other, B1.1.7 in South Africa. Multiple spike protein mutations define these variants. Apart from the nine mutations or 20 mutations on either of the variants. deletion 69-70, deletion 144, N501Y, A570D, D614G, P681H, T716I, S982A, D1118H. It has multiple spike protein mutations (deletion 144, A570D, deletion 69-70, N501Y, D614G, D1118H, P681H, T716I, and S982A).

D614G is increasing in frequency at an alarming rate”. It had rapidly become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 lineage in Europe. It had then taken hold in the United States, Canada, and Australia. D614G represented a “more transmissible form of SARS-CoV-2 (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02544-6).

What are the implications for diagnosis, the severity of the disease, policies, infectivity, and efficacy of the vaccine?

  1. Diagnosis: Ideally, at least two epitopes are considered while designing an RT PCR test for SARS CoV2. One of the proteins is on Spike protein. If the mutation affects the exact domain as the epitope, there is a strong possibility of redesigning the primers for RT PCR. Labs should revisit their primer design if those are based on the S-gene.

Does that invalidate the Antigen based or Antibody-based test? Possibly the first one may need to be revisited closely. However, the antibody test may still be valid and relevant.

  1. Severity: Severity of the disease is depends upon intrinsic factors, whereas infectivity is based upon extrinsic factors, predominant amongst those are the avidity and affinity of the virus for the receptor ACE2, and priming of these receptors via TMPRSS also plays a significant role.

However, noteworthy amongst the intrinsic factors are the IFN genes. A down-regulation, Loss of heterozygosity, methylation, or other factors that reduce the expression is one of the major putative factors in the progression of severity.

  1. Policies and Complacency: Just today, I read the news that there are no new cases in Mumbai. Absolutely, hats off. Great achievement, but let’s not forget the empire strikes back. Right now, Mumbai and places like Mumbai have dismantled their Covid hospitals. We need to be prepared earlier or possibly better if the virus strikes back. These mutations come at a (mis) opportune time of vacations, Christmas and New year when the society wants to revile and enjoy with their near and dear ones.

Some communities are basking that Covid has disappeared from their communities. Often, mutations within the virus are likely to be highly deleterious, preventing the invasion of the virus into the host resulting in the purging of the population. Policymakers need to understand that selective mutation in the virus might have conferred a disadvantage to the virus, rendering the virus into oblivion. However, aggressive variants like the one from the Uk or South Africa, may rekindle the reinfection within the community. I will caution; kindly watch out; it’s not over. The enemy strikes best when we let our guards down, a perfect situation for a storm.

  1. Infectivity: R-actor will be affected since the new variant is more infective if not aggressive in severity. The new variant is estimated to increase the reproductive number (R) by 0.4 or greater, along with an estimated increase in the transmissibility by 70%. Those R factor reporters will be back into play. However, remember, the R-factor has less reliability. It’s not a game of statistics. The complexity is compounded by several factors. R factor experts should reinvent themselves.
(Credits: https://www.cell.com/trends/immunology/fulltext/S1471-4906(20)30260-X).
  1. Effect on the Vaccines: it is too early to say if these variants are likely to affect the efficacy of the vaccine. If the mRNA vaccines are designed on the epitopes with putative mutants, it is likely to affect the vaccine’s efficacy. However, it is too early to say that.
  2. Effect on Medications: The D614G variant has a mutation that affects the action of the drug Remdesivir. The new mutants from the UK or South Africa may or may not have any impact on the known mechanism of the existing drugs.

In a nutshell:

SARS CoV2 is known to mutate at least once in two weeks, primarily because of three distinct mechanisms – a. the RDRP enzyme’s intrinsic vulnerability during replication resulting in proof-reading errors, b. host RNA-editing systems, which is considered as a defense mechanism, and c. existence of multiple lineages simultaneously in the same patient (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19818-2).

Another possible mechanism for the emergence of a variant is the persistent and prolonged infection, thus offering the virus an opportunity to evade the immune mechanism, called an immune escape. (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/SARS-CoV-2-variant-multiple-spike-protein-mutations-United-Kingdom.pdf).

We have to revisit our primer design, severity, policies, and operational procedures, while the studies will unravel the impact on vaccine efficacy. R factor experts should consider renegade, relent, and renovate their R factor formulae and models to guide the policymakers and community.

Shashank Heda, MD
Dallas, Texas

https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-medicine/fulltext/S2666-3791(20)30213-5

https://www.cell.com/immunity/fulltext/S1074-7613(20)30537-9

https://www.cell.com/trends/genetics/fulltext/S0168-9525(20)30334-6

https://www.cell.com/chem/fulltext/S2451-9294(20)30195-9

https://www.cell.com/trends/microbiology/fulltext/S0966-842X(20)30324-3

Kill Chain is not enough.

Future wars are unlikely to be physical. If one is worried about a nuclear war decimating the world, it is unlikely to happen, so is a full-scale fistfight. Future wars will be cyberwars, swiftly inundating the cyber-critical infrastructure, as well as paralyzing the network. It is not without reason that the US and the EU are opposed to the 5G belonging to Huawei of China.

Several espionages and attacks on the west are a drill to understand the weaknesses and understand the Western world’s readiness to deal with such attacks. In this article, I have talked about the cyberthreats and how their insipient potential as a weapon for future wars. (Word count 804, reading time 3-4 minutes).

After the Doklam and Ladhak standoff, it was apt that the Chinese army is more a paper tiger since the chinks in its armors were revealed. Several of China’s war capabilities are not enough to sustain a war that can last over a few weeks. Its aviation and air force is not at the level of war preparedness; its army is more paramilitary in nature that reports to the Communist Party and not the Govt., the retired soldiers are inadequately paid with resultant demoralization. Of course, it has a nexus of alliance where partners don’t trust each other (Russia has balked from giving its S400 technology to China. There are numerous examples of weaknesses. However, it is never a great idea to be complacent about adversaries’ weaknesses.

Cyber is definitely not the area where we see those weaknesses. Those are massive capabilities that have been built, and the multiple cuber attacks from the past are just an example of pf becoming battle hardy. It has a massive army of cyber warriors who are supported by the state (Govt.). It’s a huge complex multistory complex with several thousand workforces practicing daily warfare techniques.

Let’s turn towards North Korea. We all know how NK attacked Sony a few years back after Sony made a cartoon movie on its dictator, Kim Jong Un. There is no retribution, at least that I know about. Let’s visit Russia. If China and North Korea are so ahead in the cyberwar preparedness, Russia is a master. Their better side is commercial products such as Kaspersky. The stealth cyber technology is evident from the irregularly irregular attacks that they conduct at a frequency.

Recollect the recent killing of the nuclear scientist of Iran. A report from Guardian by Patrick Wintour states a “satellite-controlled smart system” was used remotely to identify and kill the nuclear scientist. He was killed using a gun that used AI and was Satellite operated. Not many may recollect the recent war in the Caucasus. Azerbaijan won the recent Nagorno Karabakh conflict after using Turkish made unmanned drones that destroyed Armenian fortifications. As Andrew North reports in Nikkie Asia Review, ‘Turkish-made combat drones have given the lowly-regarded Azeri military a potentially decisive edge, with Turkish arms manufacturers hoping for lots of new orders from around the world.’ Not sure if you recollect how Stuxnet was deployed to blow the centrifuges at the nuclear facility at Natanz, Iran. It that entire Nuclear facility was brought down by firmware grade malware that destroyed 984 centrifuges used at the nuclear facility.

Let’s visit the Kill Chain.

Lockheed Martin, a US-based company that is the manufacturer of the evolving F series of fighter planes, came up with the model of understanding Cyberattacks. It is a very well known model called The Kill Chain. According to the Kill Chain Model – Reconnaissance, weaponization, Delivery are the select few steps during a seven stage cyberattack. Cyber sleuths from private corporations follow this model to safeguard their assets. Understanding the Kill Chain provides robustness unseen in the industry.

What’s wrong with the Kill Chain?

Our Kill Chain model is not enough; we witness frequent attacks on industrial complexes and the State infrastructure. I am tempted to use the corollary to what Einstein said, to solve the problem, we need to see beyond how we created it. The solution is definitely not within the realms of technology, it is beyond that, but one thing is certain, if our understanding of Kill Chain is not safeguarding us and not deterring our adversaries, it is not enough. Otherwise, also, I would say, no one would fashion their best armor on display for the adversary to find gaps. Whether Kill Chain methodology is deployed or any other cyber warfare methodology, it is not enough.

Future wars are cyber wars, and we are not well prepared. Let’s understand that our Kill Chain model, based on threat driven approach, is not enough. Zero day attacks are a potential gap, that can be exploited. Not alone that, a well coordinated strategized attack and access to a system of least consequence, may pose a potential entry point and cascading of a full blown war.

Shashank Heda
Dallas, Texas

US cyber-attack: US energy department confirms it was hit by Sunburst hack
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-55358332

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/07/mohsen-fakhrizadeh-iran-says-ai-and-satellite-controlled-gun-used-to-kill-nuclear-scientist

https://asia.nikkei.com/Opinion/Turkey-s-disruptive-Caucasus-power-play-risks-regional-war

Deterrence or Readiness?

After ruffling the feathers with its covert land grabbing intentions, China has stoked a fear unseen for several centuries in the South China Sea. The polarization against the CRIPT-K axis has galvanized truly well. This blog talks about the potential for war if it were to happen, providing the underlying dynamics and its fallouts on the outcome. (923 words, reading time 4-5 minutes).

After ruffling the feathers with its covert intentions of land grabbing, China has stoked a fear unseen for several centuries in the South China Sea. Of course, it is not just the passive land-grab, its active intrusion, and malignant interference in the internal politics to influence the decision making. The world is, of course, aware of this potent subvert development.

The CRIPT-K Axis

CRIPT-K stands for an axis formed by China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and North Korea. To the disadvantage of the CRIPT-K axis (just invented this acronym while writing this blog), CRIPT-K has galvanized a congregation of forces against them. Chief amongst those are QUAD, expansion of the Five Eyes to Six Eyes. Initiation of Seven and Nive Eyes countries’ involvement reignited the ‘Durian Pact’ with potential expansion of the ‘Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA), into the South China Sea. Chinese moves have hastened an upgrade and build-up of arms in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, The Philippines, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, and India, and Australia are already part of the Quad along with the US and Japan.

The Bamboo Diplomacy and Natuna Standoff


I have reservations about Thailand because of the ongoing strife between the king and his populace and its inclination towards ‘Bamboo Diplomacy.’ Let’s now visit the ‘Natuna Standoff.’ In Sept 2020, Chinese vessels infiltrated the exclusive economic zone of Indonesia’s fishing territories of Natuna Island. This resulted in minor skirmishes between China and Indonesia.

Bound by interests


There certainly is a weakness and potential for a few countries getting caught in the crossfire, not because they intend to participate actively. As Alexander Cooley and Daniel Nexon from the Foreign Policy write, “Even when states do not actively switch patrons, the possibility that they could provide them with greater leverage.” In a real conflict, there is a potential for these countries to not side with either of the superpowers.

Chinese incursions into the Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, Philippine, Malaysian, Vietnamese, and Indonesian waters and air spaces is now an established pattern. With its recent adventurism from Natuna Standoff and its invasive incursions of several countries’ sovereign waters and air spaces, China has pushed these countries to drop their Bamboo diplomacy and remove their ambivalence to side with the US.

This consolidation and polarization of forces are massive polarization against CRIPT-K (China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and North Korea).

Credits: https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2018/02/26/south-china-sea-australia-usa/

Is war inevitable?

If I understand China, posturing is different than actually going to war. They will test the waters are keep their readiness but won’t dare to open front anywhere. If they sense a weakness in the system, they will right-away grab the opportunity. Under prevailing situations, China is unlikely to undertake any active incursions, not because it does not intend to, but because it knows its flaws and intrinsic weaknesses.

What about Russia?

Russo Putin knows his state is a declared and established pariah state. It has power but not sufficient economic might to wage war. It will provoke China, but it will take advantage of the situation to re-establish itself as one of the mainstream players in the global front-yards. There is a lack of trust between the two major players – China and Russia, to the extent that Russia did not export its S-400 latest technology to China due to the fear that China may reverse engineer and steal its secrets (Conversely, India has S-400).

The China-Pakistan Nexus

This nexus has been mushrooming due to a marriage of convenience. For China and Pakistan, India is an Achilles tendon, impeding their aspirations. Since the 1980s, China has been transferring nuclear technology to Pakistan despite being a consignee to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines and contravention of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) obligations. The world should be aware that, as recent as 2018, China also transferred, Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRV) for Pakistan’s Ababeel and Shaheen-3. That is an imminent threat. India is on the splurge of acquiring a gamut of weapons to counter this imminent threat. 

The Appendages without independent existence

Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, and North Korea are obligate pathogens surviving at the Dragon’s cost. Without the Dragon feeding them, these are unlikely to survive and sustain, economically or politically.

What about Miscellaneous?

“Miscellaneous” groups include Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Nepal, a few South African countries, etc., who have no spine to hold themselves erect, internally or externally. Those will only serve as stations or platforms for the Chinese forces during a global fallout.

Is a war genuinely happening?

If the anti-CRIPT (K) preparedness continues, a global war is improbable to occur unless some major fault-lines resurface.

What are those fault lines? The world survived the weakness unearthed from SARS CoV2. Economic implications and ramifications are still not felt completely; we never know if other “Trumper” events are likely underway, global warming is already getting neglected. Our infamous radical terrorism has truly not reneged. These are not the fault-lines but signs and symptoms of fault lines.

Let us see how global leaders provide a direction in navigating us through these rough patches.

Thoughts, comments, please share. I wish you to be my active audience.

Shashank Heda,

Dallas, Texas

Indonesia gets US nod for F-15 and F-18 fighter jet purchases

https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Aerospace-Defense/Indonesia-gets-US-nod-for-F-15-and-F-18-fighter-jet-purchases

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2020-06-09/how-hegemony-ends

Fortifying the Stolen – China’s New Export Control Law

After massive and global espionage, China has embarked on a ‘Export Control Regime” and rightly so, they know the best loopholes in protecting their (Stolen) IP. It took the developing world a whopping century or over to arrive technological maturity where we are. I can’t believe, how China has achieved a global competitive excellence in 30 years.

Of course, we all know the espionage and IP violations that have been underway in building a parallel economy. The new Chinese Export Control Laws are a validation of collective act over the last few decades. This blogs goes into the details of the law as well as the rationale and spirit behind the law. (Blog runs in 1100 words, reading time 4-5 minutes). References are cited at the end of the blog.

Fortifying the Stolen

A thieve knows best how to solve a riddle of a theft. That’s an age-old saying. In Cybersecurity, while designing a solution for the enterprises, I always recommend building a design on the principles of anticipating intrusions and attacks and fortifying the design. 

After indulging in massive intellectual thefts and global espionage China is well aware of weaknesses and the modus operandi. For those who are not aware, let me cite a recent example of a Chinese student at Duke University, who stole her professor’s research and started a company (product business) in China. She is not alone. The US and the western world is inundated with such stories. Even the most secretly developed weapons by the US are part of the espionage. If you recollect, the US and India to have suspended or removed the Chinese Philosophical Centers, Confucius Center after finding out that those are indulging in espionage and intellectual theft. It is said that China has over 50 million workers overseas who regularly send pirated information. Ideally, if I have to learn cybersecurity, I should avoid Lockheed Martin’s “Kill Chain” and focus on the ‘mechanism of Chinese gargantuan machinery of IP theft protection’, aka Chinese Export Control Laws cited below. It offers several Confusion (deep and reflective) thinking on the nature of the future defense. The world has a lot to learn as well are significantly lagging behind. 

On October 17, 2020, China passed a law restricting the exports of sensitive items based on national security grounds, and the law emboldens China to take countermeasures against any country or region that abuses export-control measures and poses a threat to their national security and interests. Each of these words are full of interpretations and an imminent threat to any country. All China has to do is establish a reason, and in their political culture, it is not difficult to concoct a case. If I guess rightly, even this blog is subject to Chinese national security. 

The Huawei Rejection

Why was Huawei’s 5G rejected by the advanced world? The core reason being it would have given unfettered access to their network defense and collective defense, in addition, it would have created a threat to almost all electronic data flow (that includes cell phone data too). The new Chinese regulations could prove similar to US export controls on strategic technologies. Those controls, covering military equipment, some encryption technologies, and some dual-use products, have long irked China. Chinese negotiators have often claimed that their trade surplus could be trimmed if the US would relax controls on high-tech goods.

Technologies within the Ambit

A total of 17 industrial sectors fall within the ambit of Chinese Export Control Law. The focus is primarily on technologies of strategic and commercial significance such as:

  1. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology manufacturing including technologies required for the development of vaccines;
  2. 2. Technology relating to the development, testing, and maintenance of machine tools;
  3. ‘strategic’ new product design technology for heavy machinery;
  4. Unmanned aerial vehicle technology
  5. Speech synthesis technology;
  6. Artificial intelligence interaction and interface technology;
  7. Voice evaluation technology;
  8. Personalized information push service technology based on data analysis techniques;
  9. Cryptographic chip design and implementation technology; and
  10. Quantum encryption technology

What would China bind the technology statutory regulations? According to William Marshall, an authority in this sphere, “Order 709 imposes control over the transfer of technology from within China to outside of China whether by trade, investment, or economic and technical cooperation. The regulation purports to control all transfers of technology regardless of the type of technology or whether the technology is permitted, restricted, or strictly prohibited. For permitted technology exports, a simple recordal process is required, which recordal is made with the local bureau of commerce under MOFCOM with jurisdiction over the location where the requesting entity is established. Restricted exports are subject to a license requirement, which will also be applied for and obtained from the same commercial bureau”.

The Trump initiated trade war has its roots long back into intellectual property rights and artificial currency conversion. We mock Trump for the theatrics and the tweets, but he was the most appropriate answer to China, where civilization and democracy do not work, or rather is thrown out of the window and the state-controlled capitalism is under the guise of evolved communism. 

The Great Wall of China – Importance of Chinese Export Laws

To an academician, those practicing cybersecurity and those building fortresses to safeguard their IP and enterprises, these Chinese Export Control laws are very critical. Of course, reading those at face value may reveal little but understanding the rationale and eventually reverse engineering a solution based on the bits snd pieces of these new statutes, will unravel a new mechanism for protecting this world from any further Chinese intrusion. The later we go, the more the loss. Let’s call this the “Great Wall of China”. 

What do the Chinese Export Control Laws Look Like?

Encryption and Dual-Use technologies are a facade to mimic the US Export Control Regime. However, the law goes deeper than what it reads. Items are approved for export depend on eight criteria: national security and interests, international obligations and external commitments, the type of export, the sensitivity of controlled items, the countries or regions they are intended for, the end-users and end-use, relevant credit records of exporting companies, and other factors stipulated by laws and administrative regulations. 

Are the Chinese People Different than the CPC State Machinery?

I trust their genetic legacy of wall building, of oppression from the opium war and lessons of poverty, and in the last 70 years, the submission of liberal views to state-sponsored thinking only. 

In my view, not all Chinese are like the CPC of China. Of course, like any population, the principles apply here too, that means 3 standard deviations are people like us, that almost cover over 95%, the outliers on either side exists as well, 1-2% extremely good and 1-2% with malfeasance and occult and passive/aggression. The worst, I believe, CPC is comprised of the latter and CPC offers them the avenue and a podium to run such a wonderful country and people. If I guess it right, CPC has, in the guise of national agenda, has hijacked the state. Can we call this as the ’21st Century’s Great Wall of China’?

References:

China’s export control law to become ‘key dynamic’ in US relations; https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/China-s-export-control-law-to-become-key-dynamic-in-US-relations

https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4033061

https://www.ft.com/content/47562fd6-89f6-11e9-a1c1-51bf8f989972

https://www.tiangandpartners.com/en/contacts/william-marshall.html

https://merics.org/en/report/export-controls-and-us-china-tech-war

https://www.pwc.com/m1/en/services/tax/customs-international-trade/china-proposed-export-control-law-june-july-2018.html

https://ccdcoe.org/library/publications/huawei-5g-and-china-as-a-security-threat/

https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Huawei-crackdown/Huawei-5G-dominance-threatened-in-Southeast-Asia

Glutted Economy – 3 (India)

A grave mistake in the imposition of a universal and global lockdown is the impact on the economy. Let us be open, the lockdown was boisterous, more with nationalistic fervor and less on science and an understanding of the principles of disease transmission. Sometimes back, I wrote about the concept of degree of separation and retrospectively, that explains the unsolved and enigmatic transmission in Europe and non-transmission of the virus in Shanghai despite Wuhan being badly impacted.

Learning from the ‘Kelly Criterion’

First unraveled in 1956, The Kelly Criterion helps with applying the IT principles to gambling and investment. In a simple sense, it is about risk management and seize and sizing the opportunities despite the challenging situation. Though the principle cannot be used as is, the underlying fundamentals remain the same.

A grave mistake in the imposition of a universal and global lockdown is the impact on the economy. Let us be open, the lockdown was boisterous, more with nationalistic fervor and less on science and an understanding of the principles of disease transmission. Sometimes back, I wrote about the concept of degree of separation and retrospectively, that explains the unsolved and enigmatic transmission in Europe and non-transmission of the virus in Shanghai despite Wuhan being badly impacted.

Credits: Brookings Institute

It is unwise to blame policymakers or the executioners; understanding the crus of the new problem through a different set of eyes is thus critical. As, Einstein famously said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” SARS CoV2 posed a similar challenge. We used the old yardstick to measure the new problem. Relying too much on R nout, to define such a critical national and global policy was such a deficit in our thinking. We have seen, despite lockdowns, we haven’t seen a complete break in the transmission of the cycle. Something is definitely amiss. Not that the virus has learned some tricks better than the natural laws, but the fact that we haven’t understood the complete spectrum, of dodging the virus. The economy is the lifeblood. How can we survive without an ongoing economy?

Cognitive dissonance: Dichotomy or Anomalous Behavior

We see the severe and widening chasm between several key parameters, typically called dichotomous or anomalous behavior. I was talking with my uncle back in India. He stays in our ancestral village where we own agricultural land. I asked him how is Covid-19 in our native village? Is it disrupting the agricultural activities of the Rabi crop cycle? He said, there is no COVID-19 in the village or the surrounding villages, despite our village is just 9 miles from a moderately big city of 1.5 million. On further questioning, he said, those working in the town, keep themselves isolated if not quarantined. If this is a fair data point that I can trust, and if I can extrapolate, then it is a seminal observation that will provide deep insight from such lockdown of the villages? Does that mean, we have to let the village interact with the Town? What would be the right model to break the transmission cycle and keep the economy moving in the countryside? Understand, though integrated, the metropolitan and countryside economy are two different arms that offer support to the national economy. More so, the countryside economy is still at the center stage of the national economy and provides a foundation for the national economy and not vice versa. At least if one arm continues, we are still in good shape. This is a key observation for any agriculturally leaning economy.

Let us visit another example. Many amongst you might have seen the stock market index. I call it sentiment, not a true reflection or an indicator of the business activities. Look at the divergence between the stock market index and the ground realities. This is not just afflicting the US, most economies are in this state. India is no exception. China can be, because everything is well masked and we truly don’t know the true nature of the devastation, despite receiving contradictory cues about the health of the Chinese economy. The business has been almost stalled, businesses across have been hurt because of the tortuous and tumultuous perversion of the virus as it is wading its way through the different strata of society. Is there a connection between the indicators and the health of the economy?

Such divergences create cognitive dissonance on the collective consciousness of the common man and result in defiance, that ultimately takes a toll, on the health as well as the economy of the nation and the global economy. Especially, this comes after the world had just recovered from the massive recession of 2008-09. Since 2000, post dotcom bubble burst, the economy has pretty much been dragged, by demand and has truly not been sprouting spontaneously.

Below excerpts from New York Times, “India’s economy shrank 7.5 percent in the three months that ended in September compared with a year earlier, government figures showed on Friday. The data reflects the deepening of India’s severest recession since at least 1996 when the country first began publishing its gross domestic product numbers. The new figures firmly ensconced India’s position among the world’s worst-performing major economies, despite expansive government spending designed to rescue the thousands of small businesses severely battered by its long, hastily imposed lockdown”.

https://www.financialexpress.com/economy/covid-19-pandemic-may-be-good-news-for-indias-economy-or-may-be-bad-for-china/1954207/

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/global-economy-could-shrink-by-almost-1-in-2020-due-to-covid-19-pandemic-united-nations/articleshow/74943235.cms

Ahh, I so much love China!

Ahh I love China. A totalitarian state never has to deal with the dilemma of a democracy. Life if simple, just lease your intellect to the state and work like a hen in the poultry. You have the best of the living conditions, nutrients, also a few micronutrients and absolutely controlled temperature. I love life in Chicken Farms! They have everything to serve the state (owner) and can live their stipulated life until the state desires. Let me admit, more than the blog, I liked the links shared, especially from Freedom House, Philosophy forum and the Economist.

Ahh, I so much love China and Russia

Well, liberal democracy has to walk along with all the stakeholders, unlike a totalitarian state. However, when it comes to imposing critical and essential restrictions, as was done by New York that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, to contain and control Coronavirus spread in New York, it was struck down by the conservative supreme court bench in favor of the Orthodox Jewish Organization and the Roman Catholic, the former having a high incidence of COVID.

As I read from the New York Times (link cited below), “The restrictions are strict. In shifting “red zones,” where the coronavirus risk is highest, no more than 10 people may attend religious services. In slightly less dangerous “orange zones,” which are also fluid, attendance is capped at 25. This applies even to churches that can seat more than 1,000 people”. “The Constitution does not forbid states from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favorably than comparable secular institutions, particularly when those regulations save lives,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Because New York’s Covid-19 restrictions do just that, I respectfully dissent.”

I am not sure how these numbers arise? 10, 25, 50, 100 etc. I have seen such flaunt numbers from different administrations, only to create fault lines and not fix the solution. At least my simple logic dictates that these numbers are irrelevant, and should directly be correlated with the index case or the sentinel case.

Is a numeric threshold right?

I was talking with my uncle back in India and I realized, the small village where our farms are, have no COVID in their vicinity. Obviously, I was concerned for the second crop and other agricultural activities. The best practice is to quarantine the cities and not the countryside, which as free of disease. Let the commerce flow and let the business flourish if the impact is minimal.

When I talk with my network in China, I see that the lockdown has strictly adhered to. Well, who is right? Liberal democracy with one foot backward and one foot forward, or a totalitarian state with both feet aligned?

There can never be a cookie-cutter approach or a standardized way to resolve this conundrum. Our only recourse is to evaluate each situation separately? A lot of human intelligence (Can AI help?). Irrespective, it is an individual choice versus the state responsibility towards all. Science cannot be ignored despite knowing its incompleteness. However, we can only see on the basis of current visibility.

It is obvious, that a bench is favoring a decision despite its lack of requisite (medical) background, competence and expertise to assess public health and its accountable for the people. At least for now, the public concern is thrown out of the window.

It is hard to customize and still retain the luster of the fundamental amendments (the first, second, etc.). However, it is a rope walk and if you ask a lazy person like me, I love China!

Shashank Heda

https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/6368/centrist-and-small-government-debate

https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2017/breaking-down-democracy

https://www.economist.com/essay/2014/02/27/whats-gone-wrong-with-democracy

Devoid of Credibility, Always

BRI and CPEC are already under financial and operational pressure to either scuttle or park their ongoing initiatives. India has no role to play in their self destructive implosions.

Credit: Economic Times,

None of the infrastructure development projects carried out by China in Pakistan have any Pakistani contractors. From workers, to raw material to management, everything is being by the Chinese.

Obviously, where are the resources – workers know how to run kalashnikov, banks and military knows how to make money and management has never been honed. So, it is not a wrong decision not the Pakistanis execute the blueprint of CPEC. Anyways, it doesn’t fit the Chinese model of business. Irrespective of the country where they are building infrastructure, the Chinese companies are owning those almost 100%.

Now, let’s visit CPEC dynamics

China is truly constrained on funds and revenue, for several reasons – vast infrastructure projects that have doubtful ROI in immediate future, its over 50 ghost cities, its own military and cyber incursions and now the pandemic. Keynesian principle has not stimulated the economy, not because it lost relevance, however not utilizing the principles behind the principle.

Pakistan never has a culture of entrepreneurship

Barring individual efforts, the country has never offered a milieu for growth and industry. Neither does it have the ability to repay. More-so, recently China demanded a higher interest rate. If you calculate the payback interest and principle, you will realize these CPEC are costing Pakistani Rs. 8328 per person. Agreed, not all infrastructure should be considered from the perspective of tangible ROI. We need to factor in the opportunities it creates. However, in this case where are the revenues to service the loan?

Face Saving

It is graceful to not admit any of the above but to put the usual suspect, India. Skeptics may differ but the decision is left to the future to decide.

They know this will not solve their problem but facing is an art, that conjures the present, unlikely to save from the realities and future.

Pakistan accuses India of masterminding Belt and Road attacks
https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/Pakistan-accuses-India-of-masterminding-Belt-and-Road-attacks

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/business/china-denies-cpec-intensified-pakistans-economic-risks/articleshow/68779043.cms