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Gill Pratt

Gill Pratt

2 years ago

War's Human Cost

War's Human Cost
I didn't start crying until I was outside a McDonald's in an Olempin, Poland rest area on highway S17.


Children pick toys at a refugee center, Olempin, Poland, March 4, 2022.

Refugee children, mostly alone with their mothers, but occasionally with a gray-haired grandfather or non-Ukrainian father, were coaxed into picking a toy from boxes provided by a kind-hearted company and volunteers.
I went to Warsaw to continue my research on my family's history during the Holocaust. In light of the ongoing Ukrainian conflict, I asked former colleagues in the US Department of Defense and Intelligence Community if it was safe to travel there. They said yes, as Poland was a NATO member.
I stayed in a hotel in the Warsaw Ghetto, where 90% of my mother's family was murdered in the Holocaust. Across the street was the first Warsaw Judenrat. It was two blocks away from the apartment building my mother's family had owned and lived in, now dilapidated and empty.


Building of my great-grandfather, December 2021.

A mass grave of thousands of rocks for those killed in the Warsaw Ghetto, I didn't cry when I touched its cold walls.


Warsaw Jewish Cemetery, 200,000–300,000 graves.


Mass grave, Warsaw Jewish Cemetery.

My mother's family had two homes, one in Warszawa and the rural one was a forest and sawmill complex in Western Ukraine. For the past half-year, a local Ukrainian historian had been helping me discover faint traces of her family’s life there — in fact, he had found some people still alive who remembered the sawmill and that it belonged to my mother’s grandfather. The historian was good at his job, and we had become close.


My historian friend, December 2021, talking to a Ukrainian.

With war raging, my second trip to Warsaw took on a different mission. To see his daughter and one-year-old grandson, I drove east instead of to Ukraine. They had crossed the border shortly after the war began, leaving men behind, and were now staying with a friend on Poland's eastern border.
I entered after walking up to the house and settling with the dog. The grandson greeted me with a huge smile and the Ukrainian word for “daddy,” “Tato!” But it was clear he was awaiting his real father's arrival, and any man he met would be so tentatively named.
After a few moments, the boy realized I was only a stranger. He had musical talent, like his mother and grandfather, both piano teachers, as he danced to YouTube videos of American children's songs dubbed in Ukrainian, picking the ones he liked and crying when he didn't.


Songs chosen by my historian friend's grandson, March 4, 2022

He had enough music and began crying regardless of the song. His mother picked him up and started nursing him, saying she was worried about him. She had no idea where she would live or how she would survive outside Ukraine. She showed me her father's family history of losses in the Holocaust, which matched my own research.
After an hour of drinking tea and trying to speak of hope, I left for the 3.5-hour drive west to Warsaw.
It was unlike my drive east. It was reminiscent of the household goods-filled carts pulled by horses and people fleeing war 80 years ago.


Jewish refugees relocating, USHMM Holocaust Encyclopaedia, 1939.

The carefully chosen trinkets by children to distract them from awareness of what is really happening and the anxiety of what lies ahead, made me cry despite all my research on the Holocaust. There is no way for them to communicate with their mothers, who are worried, absent, and without their fathers.
It's easy to see war as a contest of nations' armies, weapons, and land. The most costly aspect of war is its psychological toll. My father screamed in his sleep from nightmares of his own adolescent trauma in Warsaw 80 years ago.


Survivor father studying engineering, 1961.

In the airport, I waited to return home while Ukrainian public address systems announced refugee assistance. Like at McDonald's, many mothers were alone with their children, waiting for a flight to distant relatives.
That's when I had my worst trip experience.
A woman near me, clearly a refugee, answered her phone, cried out, and began wailing.
The human cost of war descended like a hammer, and I realized that while I was going home, she never would

Full article

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Erik Engheim

Erik Engheim

2 years ago

You Misunderstand the Russian Nuclear Threat

Many believe Putin is simply sabre rattling and intimidating us. They see no threat of nuclear war. We can send NATO troops into Ukraine without risking a nuclear war.

I keep reading that Putin is just using nuclear blackmail and that a strong leader will call the bluff. That, in my opinion, misunderstands the danger of sending NATO into Ukraine.
It assumes that once NATO moves in, Putin can either push the red nuclear button or not.
Sure, Putin won't go nuclear if NATO invades Ukraine. So we're safe? Can't we just move NATO?

No, because history has taught us that wars often escalate far beyond our initial expectations. One domino falls, knocking down another. That's why having clear boundaries is vital. Crossing a seemingly harmless line can set off a chain of events that are unstoppable once started.
One example is WWI. The assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand could not have known that his actions would kill millions. They couldn't have known that invading Serbia to punish them for not handing over the accomplices would start a world war. Every action triggered a counter-action, plunging Europe into a brutal and bloody war. Each leader saw their actions as limited, not realizing how they kept the dominos falling.

Nobody can predict the future, but it's easy to imagine how NATO intervention could trigger a chain of events leading to a total war. Let me suggest some outcomes.
NATO creates a no-fly-zone. In retaliation, Russia bombs NATO airfields. Russia may see this as a limited counter-move that shouldn't cause further NATO escalation. They think it's a reasonable response to force NATO out of Ukraine. Nobody has yet thought to use the nuke.
Will NATO act? Polish airfields bombed, will they be stuck? Is this an article 5 event? If so, what should be done?

It could happen. Maybe NATO sends troops into Ukraine to punish Russia. Maybe NATO will bomb Russian airfields.

Putin's response Is bombing Russian airfields an invasion or an attack? Remember that Russia has always used nuclear weapons for defense, not offense. But let's not panic, let's assume Russia doesn't go nuclear.

Maybe Russia retaliates by attacking NATO military bases with planes. Maybe they use ships to attack military targets. How does NATO respond? Will they fight Russia in Ukraine or escalate? Will they invade Russia or attack more military installations there?
Seen the pattern? As each nation responds, smaller limited military operations can grow in scope.

So far, the Russian military has shown that they begin with less brutal methods. As losses and failures increase, brutal means are used. Syria had the same. Assad used chemical weapons and attacked hospitals, schools, residential areas, etc.
A NATO invasion of Ukraine would cost Russia dearly. “Oh, this isn't looking so good, better pull out and finish this war,” do you think? No way. Desperate, they will resort to more brutal tactics. If desperate, Russia has a huge arsenal of ugly weapons. They have nerve agents, chemical weapons, and other nasty stuff.

What happens if Russia uses chemical weapons? What if Russian nerve agents kill NATO soldiers horribly? West calls for retaliation will grow. Will we invade Russia? Will we bomb them?

We are angry and determined to punish war criminal Putin, so NATO tanks may be heading to Moscow. We want vengeance for his chemical attacks and bombing of our cities.
Do you think the distance between that red nuclear button and Putin's finger will be that far once NATO tanks are on their way to Moscow?

We might avoid a nuclear apocalypse. A NATO invasion force or even Western cities may be used by Putin. Not as destructive as ICBMs. Putin may think we won't respond to tactical nukes with a full nuclear counterattack. Why would we risk a nuclear Holocaust by launching ICBMs on Russia?

Maybe. My point is that at every stage of the escalation, one party may underestimate the other's response. This war is spiraling out of control and the chances of a nuclear exchange are increasing. Nobody really wants it.

Fear, anger, and resentment cause it. If Putin and his inner circle decide their time is up, they may no longer care about the rest of the world. We saw it with Hitler. Hitler, seeing the end of his empire, ordered the destruction of Germany. Nobody should win if he couldn't. He wanted to destroy everything, including Paris.

In other words, the danger isn't what happens after NATO intervenes The danger is the potential chain reaction. Gambling has a psychological equivalent. It's best to exit when you've lost less. We humans are willing to take small risks for big rewards. To avoid losses, we are willing to take high risks. Daniel Kahneman describes this behavior in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

And so bettors who have lost a lot begin taking bigger risks to make up for it. We get a snowball effect. NATO involvement in the Ukraine conflict is akin to entering a casino and placing a bet. We'll start taking bigger risks as we start losing to Russian retaliation. That's the game's psychology.

It's impossible to stop. So will politicians and citizens from both Russia and the West, until we risk the end of human civilization.

You can avoid spiraling into ever larger bets in the Casino by drawing a hard line and declaring “I will not enter that Casino.” We're doing it now. We supply Ukraine. We send money and intelligence but don't cross that crucial line.

It's difficult to watch what happened in Bucha without demanding NATO involvement. What should we do? Of course, I'm not in charge. I'm a writer. My hope is that people will think about the consequences of the actions we demand. My hope is that you think ahead not just one step but multiple dominos.

More and more, we are driven by our emotions. We cannot act solely on emotion in matters of life and death. If we make the wrong choice, more people will die.

Read the original post here.

Claire Berehova

Claire Berehova

2 years ago

There’s no manual for that

Kyiv oblast in springtime. Photo by author.

We’ve been receiving since the war began text messages from the State Emergency Service of Ukraine every few days. They’ve contained information on how to comfort a child and what to do in case of a water outage.

But a question that I struggle to suppress irks within me: How would we know if there really was a threat coming our away? So how can I happily disregard an air raid siren and continue singing to my three-month-old son when I feel like a World War II film became reality? There’s no manual for that.

Along with the anxiety, there’s the guilt that always seems to appear alongside dinner we’re fortunate to still have each evening while brave Ukrainian soldiers are facing serious food insecurity. There’s no manual for how to deal with this guilt.

When it comes to the enemy, there is no manual for how to react to the news of Russian casualties. Every dead Russian soldier weakens Putin, but I also know that many of these men had wives and girlfriends who are now living a nightmare.

So, I felt like I had to start writing my own manual.

The anxiety around the air raid siren? Only with time does it get easier to ignore it, but never completely.

The guilt? All we can do is pray.

That inner conflict? As Russia continues to stun the world with its war crimes, my emotions get less gray — I have to get used to accommodating absurd levels of hatred.

Sadness? It feels a bit more manageable when we laugh, and a little alcohol helps (as it usually does).

Cabin fever? Step outside in the yard when possible. At least the sunshine is becoming more fervent with spring approaching.

Slava Ukraini. Heroyam slava. (Glory to Ukraine. Glory to the heroes.)

Steve QJ

Steve QJ

2 years ago

Putin's War On Reality

The dictator's playbook.

Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, delivered a speech titled "On The Cult Of Personality And Its Consequences" in 1956, three years after Stalin’s death.

It was Stalin's grave abuse of power that caused untold harm to our party.
Stalin acted not by persuasion, explanation, or patient cooperation, but by imposing his ideas and demanding absolute obedience. […]
See where Stalin's mania for greatness led? He had lost all sense of reality.

The speech, which was never made public, shook the Soviet Union and the Soviet Bloc. After Stalin's "cult of personality" was exposed as a lie, only reality remained.

As I've watched the nightmare unfold in Ukraine, I'm reminded of that question. Primarily by Putin's repeated denials.

His odd claim that Ukraine is run by drug addicts and Nazis (especially strange given that Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president, is Jewish). Others attempt to portray Russia as liberators rather than occupiers. For example, he portrays Luhansk and Donetsk as plucky, newly independent states when they have been totalitarian statelets for 8 years.

Putin seemed to have lost all sense of reality.

Maybe that's why his remarks to an oligarchs' gathering stood out:

Everything is a desperate measure. They gave us no choice. We couldn't do anything about their security risks. […] They could have put the country in jeopardy.

This is almost certainly true from Putin's perspective. Even for Putin, a military invasion seems unlikely. So, what exactly is putting Russia's security in jeopardy? How could Ukraine's independence endanger Russia's existence?

The truth is the only thing that truly terrifies leaders like these.

Trump, the president of “alternative facts,” "and “fake news” praised Putin's fabricated justifications for the Ukraine invasion. Russia tightened news censorship as news of their losses came in. It's no accident that modern dictatorships like Russia (and China and North Korea) restrict citizens' access to information.

Controlling what people see, hear, and think is the simplest method. And Ukraine's recent efforts to join the European Union showed a country whose thoughts Putin couldn't control. With the Russian and Ukrainian peoples so close, he could not control their reality.
He appears to think this is a threat worth fighting NATO over.

It's easy to disown history's great dictators. By the magnitude of their harm. But the strategy they used is still in use today, albeit not to the same devastating effect.

The Kim dynasty in North Korea has ruled for 74 years, Putin has ruled Russia for 19 years (using loopholes and even rewriting the constitution).

“Politicians and diapers must be changed frequently,” said Mark Twain. "And for the same reason.”

When their egos are threatened, they sabre-rattle, as in Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump's famous spat about the size of their...ahem, “nuclear buttons”." Or Putin's threats of mutual destruction this weekend.

Most importantly, they have cult-like control over their followers.

When a leader whose power is built on lies feels he is losing control of the narrative, things like Trump's Jan. 6 meltdown and Putin's current actions in Ukraine are unavoidable.

Leaders who try to control their people's reality will have to die to keep the illusion alive.

Long version of this post available here

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Alex Mathers

Alex Mathers

23 years ago

400 articles later, nobody bothered to read them.

Writing for readers:

14 years of daily writing.

I post practically everything on social media. I authored hundreds of articles, thousands of tweets, and numerous volumes to almost no one.

Tens of thousands of readers regularly praise me.

I despised writing. I'm stuck now.

I've learned what readers like and what doesn't.

Here are some essential guidelines for writing with impact:

Readers won't understand your work if you can't.

Though obvious, this slipped me up. Share your truths.

Stories engage human brains.

Showing the journey of a person from worm to butterfly inspires the human spirit.

Overthinking hinders powerful writing.

The best ideas come from inner understanding in between thoughts.

Avoid writing to find it. Write.

Writing a masterpiece isn't motivating.

Write for five minutes to simplify. Step-by-step, entertaining, easy steps.

Good writing requires a willingness to make mistakes.

So write loads of garbage that you can edit into a good piece.

Courageous writing.

A courageous story will move readers. Personal experience is best.

Go where few dare.

Templates, outlines, and boundaries help.

Limitations enhance writing.

Excellent writing is straightforward and readable, removing all the unnecessary fat.

Use five words instead of nine.

Use ordinary words instead of uncommon ones.

Readers desire relatability.

Too much perfection will turn it off.

Write to solve an issue if you can't think of anything to write.

Instead, read to inspire. Best authors read.

Every tweet, thread, and novel must have a central idea.

What's its point?

This can make writing confusing.

️ Don't direct your reader.

Readers quit reading. Demonstrate, describe, and relate.

Even if no one responds, have fun. If you hate writing it, the reader will too.

Jari Roomer

Jari Roomer

1 year ago

5 ways to never run out of article ideas

Perfectionism is the enemy of the idea muscle. " — James Altucher

Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

Writer's block is a typical explanation for low output. Success requires productivity.

In four years of writing, I've never had writer's block. And you shouldn't care.

You'll never run out of content ideas if you follow a few tactics. No, I'm not overpromising.


Take Note of Ideas

Brains are strange machines. Blank when it's time to write. Idiot. Nothing. We get the best article ideas when we're away from our workstation.

  • In the shower

  • Driving

  • In our dreams

  • Walking

  • During dull chats

  • Meditating

  • In the gym

No accident. The best ideas come in the shower, in nature, or while exercising.

(Your workstation is the worst place for creativity.)

The brain has time and space to link 'dots' of information during rest. It's eureka! New idea.

If you're serious about writing, capture thoughts as they come.

Immediately write down a new thought. Capture it. Don't miss it. Your future self will thank you.

As a writer, entrepreneur, or creative, letting ideas slide is bad.

I recommend using Evernote, Notion, or your device's basic note-taking tool to capture article ideas.

It doesn't matter whatever app you use as long as you collect article ideas.

When you practice 'idea-capturing' enough, you'll have an unending list of article ideas when writer's block hits.


High-Quality Content

More books, films, Medium pieces, and Youtube videos I consume, the more I'm inspired to write.

What you eat shapes who you are.

Celebrity gossip and fear-mongering news won't help your writing. It won't help you write regularly.

Instead, read expert-written books. Watch documentaries to improve your worldview. Follow amazing people online.

Develop your 'idea muscle' Daily creativity takes practice. The more you exercise your 'idea muscles,' the easier it is to generate article ideas.

I've trained my 'concept muscle' using James Altucher's exercise.


Write 10 ideas daily.

Write ten book ideas every day if you're an author. Write down 10 business ideas per day if you're an entrepreneur. Write down 10 investing ideas per day.

Write 10 article ideas per day. You become a content machine.

It doesn't state you need ten amazing ideas. You don't need 10 ideas. Ten ideas, regardless of quality.

Like at the gym, reps are what matter. With each article idea, you gain creativity. Writer's block is no match for this workout.


Quit Perfectionism

Perfectionism is bad for writers. You'll have bad articles. You'll have bad ideas. OK. It's creative.

Writing success requires prolificacy. You can't have 'perfect' articles.

Perfectionism is the enemy of the idea muscle. Perfectionism is your brain trying to protect you from harm.” — James Altucher

Vincent van Gogh painted 900 pieces. The Starry Night is the most famous.

Thomas Edison invented 1093 things, but not all were as important as the lightbulb or the first movie camera.

Mozart composed nearly 600 compositions, but only Serenade No13 became popular.

Always do your best. Perfectionism shouldn't stop you from working. Write! Publicize. Make. Even if imperfect.


Write Your Story

Living an interesting life gives you plenty to write about. If you travel a lot, share your stories or lessons learned.

Describe your business's successes and shortcomings.

Share your experiences with difficulties or addictions.

More experiences equal more writing material.

If you stay indoors, perusing social media, you won't be inspired to write.

Have fun. Travel. Strive. Build a business. Be bold. Live a life worth writing about, and you won't run out of material.

Techletters

Techletters

1 year ago

Using Synthesia, DALL-E 2, and Chat GPT-3, create AI news videos

Combining AIs creates realistic AI News Videos.

Combine different AIs. Image by Lukas from Pixabay.

Powerful AI tools like Chat GPT-3 are trending. Have you combined AIs?

The 1-minute fake news video below is startlingly realistic. Artificial Intelligence developed NASA's Mars exploration breakthrough video (AI). However, integrating the aforementioned AIs generated it.

  • AI-generated text for the Chat GPT-3 based on a succinct tagline

  • DALL-E-2 AI generates an image from a brief slogan.

  • Artificial intelligence-generated avatar and speech

This article shows how to use and mix the three AIs to make a realistic news video. First, watch the video (1 minute).

Talk GPT-3

Chat GPT-3 is an OpenAI NLP model. It can auto-complete text and produce conversational responses.

Try it at the playground. The AI will write a comprehensive text from a brief tagline. Let's see what the AI generates with "Breakthrough in Mars Project" as the headline.

Open AI / GPT-3 Playground was used to generate a text based on our headline.

Amazing. Our tagline matches our complete and realistic text. Fake news can start here.

DALL-E-2

OpenAI's huge transformer-based language model DALL-E-2. Its GPT-3 basis is geared for image generation. It can generate high-quality photos from a brief phrase and create artwork and images of non-existent objects.

DALL-E-2 can create a news video background. We'll use "Breakthrough in Mars project" again. Our AI creates four striking visuals. Last.

DALL-E-2 AI was used to generate a background image based on a short tagline.

Synthesia

Synthesia lets you quickly produce videos with AI avatars and synthetic vocals.

Avatars are first. Rosie it is.

Synthesia AI was used to generate a moving avatar.

Upload and select DALL-backdrop. E-2's

Add DALL-E-2 background to Synthesia AI.

Copy the Chat GPT-3 content and choose a synthetic voice.

Copy text from GPT-3 to Synthesia AI.

Voice: English (US) Professional.

Select synthetic voice in Synthesia AI.

Finally, we generate and watch or download our video.

Synthesia AI completes the AI video.

Overview & Resources

We used three AIs to make surprisingly realistic NASA Mars breakthrough fake news in this post. Synthesia generates an avatar and a synthetic voice, therefore it may be four AIs.

These AIs created our fake news.

  • AI-generated text for the Chat GPT-3 based on a succinct tagline

  • DALL-E-2 AI generates an image from a brief slogan.

  • Artificial intelligence-generated avatar and speech