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Author Ben Schott on COVID-19 and New York City

If it’s too soon to know the meaning of the French Revolution, it’s too soon to know the meaning of Covid-19. But since we still greet sneezes with the 14th-century Black Death prayer ‘Bless you’, it’s possible a few new norms will emerge. Some predict the decline of business travel, others the demise of handshakes. It seems more likely that every household will, from this day hence, maintain a dusty supply of hand sanitiser, paper masks, and emergency loo-rolls. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll remember just how truly essential our essential workers are. #

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Link Politics

‘Corbynism Will Outlast Jeremy Corbyn’

Corbyn’s personality was always lacking. He wasn’t unlikeable, but was also not likeable either. And now he’s finally no longer leader of the Labour party. His slow, drawn-out political death has been completed. But Tom McTague in the Atlantic argues that Corbyn’s ideas will outlive the man himself, much in the same way Barry Goldwater did in the 1960’s on the American right with his brand of more radical conservatism ‘that would culminate in Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory’:

Sanders and Corbyn fancied themselves to be the new Reagans (or Margaret Thatchers) in terms of the imprint they would leave on their countries, but were not up to the task. The question to haunt the conservative right is, what happens if these two historically peculiar leaders aren’t the Reagans of their movements, but the Goldwaters? And what happens if—or when—the left finally finds its Reagan?” #

[Corbyn has been replaced by Keir Starmer. Want to acquaint yourself with him? The Spectator has a good piece.]

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‘Why the internet didn’t break’

A nice little explanation of why the internet was always going to be just fine during the COVID-19 crisis despite the massive spike in demand.

But the main takeaway from the article is that there could be 42 million Americans without broadband. And that’s not good enough:

Three weeks ago, everyone’s point of reference for high-speed broadband networks was the one-way delivery of video services such as Netflix. Henceforth, broadband will be recognized for what it is: a critical two-way connection that can no longer be considered a luxury. #

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Link Technology

‘They Were Opposed To Government Surveillance. Then The Coronavirus Pandemic Began.’

Good follow up read in BuzzFeed.News in the same vein of the Maciej Cegłowski article I linked to yesterday.

Is the coronavirus the kind of emergency that requires setting aside otherwise sacrosanct commitments to privacy and civil liberties? Or like the 9/11 attacks before it, does it mark a moment in which panicked Americans will accept new erosions on their freedoms, only to regret it when the immediate danger recedes?

Many countries have already taken creepy steps:

In South Korea, the government is mapping the movements of COVID-19 patients using data from mobile carriers, credit card companies, and the Institute of Public Health and Environment. In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the country’s internal security agency to tap into a previously undisclosed cache of cellphone data to trace the movements of infected persons in that country and in the West Bank. And in the Indian state of Karnataka, the government is requiring people in lockdown to send it selfies every hour to prove they are staying home.

But the real question is less about what elements of digital privacy we as a society are willing to trade in right now to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and more about wether we’ll ever get them back.

The article ends with this:

Sanchez worried that the coronavirus, like the war on terror, is an open-ended threat with no clear end — inviting opportunities for those surveillance measures to be abused long after the threat has passed. In the same week that he spoke, the US Senate voted to extend until June the FBI’s expanded powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, originally passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks 19 years ago.

I think it’s safe to presume that anything we lose will never be returned.

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Link Technology

China wants to create a whole new goverment-controlled internet

At the gathering, held at the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency that establishes common global standards for technologies, they presented a simple PowerPoint. It didn’t bother with much detail on how this new network would work, or what specific problem it was solving. Instead, it was peppered with images of futuristic technologies, from life-size holograms to self-driving cars.

The idea was to illustrate that the current internet is a relic that has reached the limits of its technical prowess. It was time, Huawei proposed, for a new global network with a top-down design, and the Chinese should be the ones to build it. #

This is scary:

China is already in the process of building a credit-scoring system for its population, based on online and offline behaviour and past “misdemeanours”, the delegation member noted. “So if somebody’s social credit score dipped below a certain amount because they were posting on social media too much, you could actually prevent that phone from connecting to the network.”


Note: the Finanical Times’ paywall and website is awful. They even inject this when you copy and paste something:

Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of FT.com T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email [email protected] to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at https://www.ft.com/tour.

So I’ve linked to a cached copy of the article. But if want you can read it at its original URL here.

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‘DJI Won the Drone Wars, and Now It’s Paying the Price’

[DJI CEO, Frank Wang] is perhaps the most private tech CEO of them all, shunning all but a handful of media requests over his 14 years as DJI’s boss and figurehead. He stoodup a planned interview for this story twice, leaving his representatives to apologize and explain that they just never quite know what the man will do. In fact, the rumor going around DJI’s press office is that Wang might not speak to a reporter ever again. […] Wang once threatened to dock the pay of a public-relations executive because Wang had received too much attention in the media.

[…] DJI’s hiring standards are famously strict… Those who seem engineering-focused enough eventually face a hands-on challenge: soldering drone components together. Until recently, even potential sales and marketing hires were asked to complete this task. The tests don’t stop once an employee is hired. DJI has become infamous for its competitive atmosphere. The company separates workers into groups and challenges them to come up with rival takes on a new product. The winning group gets the glory of seeing its ideas come to market; the losers must help make that happen. Employees are often asked to judge one another in surveys and to rate the performance of other departments. This data is then used to help decide salaries. #

The article ends a little abruptly, but it’s still worth your time.

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Health Link

Symptom of COVID-19 may be loss of smell

“Almost everybody who is hospitalized has this same story,” said Dr. Marco Metra, chief of the cardiology department at the main hospital in Brescia, where 700 of 1,200 inpatients have the coronavirus. “You ask about the patient’s wife or husband. And the patient says, ‘My wife has just lost her smell and taste but otherwise she is well.’ So she is likely infected, and she is spreading it with a very mild form.” […]

Hendrik Streeck, a German virologist from the University of Bonn who went from house to house in the country’s Heinsberg district to interview coronavirus patients, has said in interviews that at least two-thirds of the more than 100 he talked to with mild disease reported experiencing loss of smell and taste lasting several days. #

A UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries who had COVID-19 tweeted about not being able to smell or taste too.

More coverage.

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‘Comfort food sales rise amid coronavirus self-isolation orders’

In the week that ended March 14, popcorn sales were up 48%, pretzels up 47% and potato chips up 30% compared to a year earlier, according to Nielsen data cited by the outlet.

“People are retreating back into comfort habits,” said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Jennifer Bartashus. #

I think this is less about these items being ‘comfort food’ and more about them having a long shelf life. Lots of shops currently have very limited frozen goods and most people only have so much fridge and freezer space so buying items you can store at room temperature for a long time makes sense. I’m making sure I have plenty of nuts, tuna and tinned meats and vegetables.

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Link Technology

‘Apple Acknowledges Personal Hotspot Issues’

MacRumors:

In an internal document distributed to Apple Authorized Service Providers this week, obtained by MacRumors, Apple has acknowledged that some iOS 13 or iPadOS 13 users may experience issues with Personal Hotspot.

I have had nothing but problems with Personal Hotspot for a long time. Long before iOS 13. And that’s actually a big problem because when I turn it on it’s because I can’t find Wi-Fi anywhere and I really need it to just bloody work right now. But all too often it fails. An iPhone is increasingly a digital Swiss Army knife and Personal Hotspot is an important part of that. It has to work 100% of the time. Imagine if Apple Pay didn’t work every single time?

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‘No, coronavirus isn’t going to break the internet’

‘Some web services are facing outages but the internet is largely resilient to collapse’:

In response to concerns about networks not being able to cope with the demands being placed on them, BT has said it has “confidence” that it will be more than able to cope with people spending more time at home. The group says the highest peak its ever seen in demand hit 17.5Tb/s – during coronavirus there’s been a 35-65 per cent increase in daytime traffic but the highest peak has only been 7.5Tb/s.

And Netflix still isn’t delivering capped streams to me, by the way.