from the world's big
552 - When Macbeth Met Hamlet: a Scandinavian Scotland?
To be or not to be Scandinavian, that might be the question soon enough for Scotland, if it decides to become independent. For the time being, Scotland is still a part of the United Kingdom, as it has been since the Acts of Union in 1707. But with the Scottish National Party firmly ensconced in Holyrood , a referendum on independence is on the horizon - by 2015 at the latest.
Even though both sides have recently rowed over how binding such a referendum would be, it is hard to see how the British government of David Cameron  could deny Alex Salmond’s Scottish one the fruits of a clear victory for the Yes camp. Opinion polls show no Scottish majority (yet) for independence - the closest ones falter at around 38% - but Cameron’s ham-fisted handling of the referendum row surely must have added a few votes to Salmond’s cause.
So what happens if they win?
Well - this map suggests that Scotland could go Scandinavian, first and foremost by the sheer power of Gestalt psychology. Our brain seeks out wholeness from the sensory fragments it constantly processes, so a bunch of territories shaded in the same hue of blue: they must belong together.
It’s a trick that worked well for the British Empire at its height. The pink swathes on this world map contrast with the monochrome white of the rest of the world’s land mass, and what’s more: they contrast together. Rather than just seem really, really far away from each other, Australia and Canada seem to balance each other out, each equally pink on their opposite sides of the world .
But a Scandinavian Scotland has more going for it than this blue on this map, and our wired-for-holism  brains. There’s also geographic proximity, shared access to the same body of water, and the resultant multitude of historical links between Scotland on the one side, and Iceland, Norway and Denmark on the other. (There’s been less interaction with the slightly more distant Swedes and Finns). Lerwick, the capital of the Shetland Islands, is closer to Bergen in Norway than to its capital Edinburgh. It’s also the location of Up Helly Aa, an annual fire festival to mark the end of Yuletide that has a distinctly Viking-y feel to it .
This map was taken from the Copenhagen Post, an English-language Danish newspaper . The accompanying article mentions a few more similarities: both Scotland and Scandinavia harvest fish and renewable energy from the sea, both sides of the North Sea share some vocabulary (Scots call their children bairns, Norwegians and Swedes call them barn, Danes børn), and both have an outlook infused by similar brands of anti-hierarchical Lutheranism. Significantly for a small nation considering independence: Scotland, Norway and Denmark all have about 5 million inhabitants. Small numbers don’t seem to be an impediment to successful statehood.
But the main attraction for a Scotland savaged by assaults on its social institutions: the fabled Scandinavian welfare state, with its state-funded cradle-to-grave care system. What’s remarkable is less that this system is under pressure and being privatised in Scandinavia itself, than the fact that it holds such sway over the Scottish imagination at all. Perhaps it’s that Lutheran connection. Or maybe it’s just another way for the Scots to distinguish themselves from the Tories, who hold sway in England .
One final, crucial advantage of a Scandinavian over a British Scotland: it would no longer be in the Far North of the UK, but in the Southwest of the Scandinavia. The place would not have to move an inch, but it would sound less cold, dark and at the end of everything . Scotland’s new orientation could finally allow it to ditch some of the negative stereotypes that have been dogging it for far too long. It would no longer be colder, emptier and darker than England. It could be as socially sophisticated and as technologically advanced as Denmark or Norway.
Will Scotland ever become so Nordic that Macbeth will be called the Scandinavian play? For as powerful as the pull towards independence might seem, another holistic paradigm is at work: the political division of islands is most often seen as a bad thing, something to either be prevented (e.g. Sri Lanka) or to be overcome (e.g. Cyprus). To quote the Bard himself:
“If you can look into the seeds of time,
And say which grain will grow, and which will not,
 The Edinburgh neighbourhood that is the location of - and hence a metonym for - the Scottish Parliament. It was reconstituted following a succesful referendum in 1999 on political devolution for Scotland from Westminster (another metonym, this time for the London area in which the British Parliament is located).
 A very Scottish name - but then the English have complained for centuries that they’ve been governed by Scots. Gordon Brown, the previous PM, was born, elected and lives in Scotland. Tony Blair, Brown’s predecessor, was born in Edinburgh of partly Scottish stock, and spent part of his childhood in Glasgow. Says Francis Urquhart, the (fictional) prime minister in the tv series To Play the King (1993), to his king: “My family came south with James I. We were defenders of the English throne before your family was ever heard of. It is to preserve the ideal of a constitutional monarchy that I now demand your abdication.”
 The pink-holistic view of the British Empire is a powerful one, even when most of it is gone: ‘The Last Pink Bits’ is a 1997 book by Harry Ritchie, examining what remains of the Empire map.
 Some would say that Scotland’s favourite kind of holism is alco-holism. This blog of course does not endorse such stereotyping.
 Young men, mostly dressed up in horned helmets, carry torches through the streets of Lerwick, tossing them in a longboat, which eventually goes up in flames. Sounds ancient, but originates in the 1880s. Most recent edition: 31 January 2012. More info at the Up Helly Aa website.
 Only 15 out of 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament are Conservative. Labour has 37 MSPs. The SNP (69 MSPs) is nationalist, but left-leaning.
 The standard British expression to describe the length and breadth of the land is: from John O’Groats to Land’s End. The latter is the extreme southwest of the British landmass. The former is the northeastern extremity of mainland Scotland.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.
- The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
- Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
- Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Bacteria under microscope
needpix.com<p>Today, bubonic plague can be treated effectively with antibiotics.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unlike in the 14th century, we now have an understanding of how this disease is transmitted," Dr. Shanthi Kappagoda, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">Healthline</a>. "We know how to prevent it — avoid handling sick or dead animals in areas where there is transmission. We are also able to treat patients who are infected with effective antibiotics, and can give antibiotics to people who may have been exposed to the bacteria [and] prevent them [from] getting sick."</p>
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p>Still, hundreds of people develop bubonic plague every year. In the U.S., a handful of cases occur annually, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/index.html" target="_blank">where habitats allow the bacteria to spread more easily among wild rodent populations</a>. But these cases are very rare, mainly because you need to be in close contact with rodents in order to get infected. And though plague can spread from human to human, this <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/seriously-dont-worry-about-the-plague#Heres-how-the-plague-spreads" target="_blank">only occurs with pneumonic plague</a>, and transmission is also rare.</p>
A new swine flu in China<p>Last week, researchers in China also reported another public health concern: a new virus that has "all the essential hallmarks" of a pandemic virus.<br></p><p>In a paper published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/23/1921186117" target="_blank">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, researchers say the virus was discovered in pigs in China, and it descended from the H1N1 virus, commonly called "swine flu." That virus was able to transmit from human to human, and it killed an estimated 151,700 to 575,400 people worldwide from 2009 to 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p>There's no evidence showing that the new virus can spread from person to person. But the researchers did find that 10 percent of swine workers had been infected by the virus, called G4 reassortant EA H1N1. This level of infectivity raises concerns, because it "greatly enhances the opportunity for virus adaptation in humans and raises concerns for the possible generation of pandemic viruses," the researchers wrote.
SEAL training is the ultimate test of both mental and physical strength.
- The fact that U.S. Navy SEALs endure very rigorous training before entering the field is common knowledge, but just what happens at those facilities is less often discussed. In this video, former SEALs Brent Gleeson, David Goggins, and Eric Greitens (as well as authors Jesse Itzler and Jamie Wheal) talk about how the 18-month program is designed to build elite, disciplined operatives with immense mental toughness and resilience.
- Wheal dives into the cutting-edge technology and science that the navy uses to prepare these individuals. Itzler shares his experience meeting and briefly living with Goggins (who was also an Army Ranger) and the things he learned about pushing past perceived limits.
- Goggins dives into why you should leave your comfort zone, introduces the 40 percent rule, and explains why the biggest battle we all face is the one in our own minds. "Usually whatever's in front of you isn't as big as you make it out to be," says the SEAL turned motivational speaker. "We start to make these very small things enormous because we allow our minds to take control and go away from us. We have to regain control of our mind."
Is focusing solely on body mass index the best way for doctor to frame obesity?
- New guidelines published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argue that obesity should be defined as a condition that involves high body mass index along with a corresponding physical or mental health condition.
- The guidelines note that classifying obesity by body mass index alone may lead to fat shaming or non-optimal treatments.
- The guidelines offer five steps for reframing the way doctors treat obesity.