Law and Legal
Fast Company – The vaccines ‘do not show that they prevent you from potentially carrying this virus . . . and infecting others.’…The problem is, it is yet unknown if any of the three vaccines—including Moderna’s—will make the transmission of the virus from a vaccinated person to an unvaccinated person impossible. Or, to put it another way, it’s possible that even vaccinated people will be able to still infect unvaccinated people with COVID-19. As Zaks told Axios, while Moderna’s and other’s vaccines do appear to prevent people from getting “severely sick” from COVID-19, “[t]hey do not show that they prevent you from potentially carrying this virus . . . and infecting others.”
The Atlantic – A new analysis shows that the country is on track to pass spring’s grimmest record. “…Case numbers have nearly quadrupled since late September, when roughly 700 people a day were dying. If 1.8 percent of confirmed cases are translating into recorded deaths 22 days later, the U.S. is about to enter some extremely harrowing days. Every 100,000 cases would mean roughly 1,800 dead Americans a few weeks later. “I expect the U.S. to be reporting over 2,000 deaths per day in three weeks’ time,” Trevor Bedford [a genomic epidemiologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle, using data from the COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic, which compiles the cases and deaths that states report.] They were then independently analyzed by the forecasting expert Ryan Tibshirani at the Delphi Group at Carnegie Mellon, which works closely with the CDC on disease modeling. If we look back over the past several months, the method Bedford used has proved more accurate than other means of forecasting near-term deaths.concluded. “Importantly, this doesn’t assume any further increases in circulation and is essentially ‘baked into’ currently reported cases and represents conditions that take time to resolve and to be reported.” And this analysis does not factor in new dynamics that could make outcomes worse, such as the possibility that local hospital systems collapse, which many health-care workers and experts are warning about. Already, more than 20 percent of hospitals are anticipating a staff shortage this week—and the Mayo Clinic reported that 900 of its workers had tested positive in the past two weeks. Nor does the analysis incorporate the possibility of an overburdened testing system becoming unable to complete as many tests as necessary, which would depress case counts. Either of these factors could push or skew the expected death rate even higher.
DPS Aero Bureau Encounters Monolith in Red Rock Country – “On November 18, 2020, the Utah Department of Public Safety Aero Bureau was working with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to conduct a count of big horn sheep in a portion of southeastern Utah. While on this mission, they spotted an unusual object and landed nearby to investigate further. The crew members found a metal monolith installed in the ground in a remote area of red rock. The crew said there was no obvious indication of who might have put the monolith there. The exact location of the installation is not being disclosed since it is in a very remote area and if individuals were to attempt to visit the area, there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue. We are encouraging anyone who knows the location of the monolith to not attempt to visit it due to road conditions…”
Bloomberg – The Best and Worst Places to Be in the Coronavirus Era – “…The Magic Formula?…The under-performance of some of the world’s most prominent democracies including the U.S., U.K. and India contrasted with the success of authoritarian countries like China and Vietnam has raised questions over whether democratic societies are cut out for tackling pandemics. Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking tells a different story: eight of the top 10 are democracies. Success in containing Covid-19 with the least disruption appears to rely less on being able to order people into submission, but on governments engendering a high degree of trust and societal compliance…The Ranking will change as countries switch up their strategies, the weather shifts and the race intensifies for a viable inoculation. Still, the gap that has opened up between those economies at the top and those at the bottom is likely to endure, with potentially lasting consequences in the post-Covid world….”
BBC – Many of us have found ourselves in an isolated routine during the pandemic – and it turns out, that’s not very good for your memories. At the University of California Irvine, research is beginning on how the lockdown has affected people’s memories. It’s been reported that even some of those amazing people who usually remember events like buying a cinema ticket 20 years earlier because they have highly superior autobiographical memory are finding they are forgetting things. There are, of course, several different types of memory. Forgetting what you intended to buy is different from forgetting someone’s name or what you did last Wednesday. But research on how memory works points to several ways in which our newly constrained environment could be having an impact. The most obvious factor is isolation. We know that a lack of social contact can affect the brain negatively and that the effect is most serious in those already experiencing memory difficulties. For those with Alzheimer’s Disease, levels of loneliness can even predict the course of disease…”
“Despite the worldwide effort to develop safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19 and ramp up production capacity, it is inevitable that initial vaccine supply will be limited. Therefore, policymakers must develop plans to ensure the equitable allocation of limited doses until there is sufficient global supply. In response to a request from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Academies have formed a committee that will produce a consensus study to assist policymakers in the U.S. and global health communities in planning for equitable allocation of vaccines against COVID-19. As part of the study, the committee will consider what criteria should be used to set priorities for equitable distribution among groups of potential vaccine recipients, taking into account factors such as population health disparities; individuals at higher risk because of health status, occupation, or living conditions; and geographic distribution of active virus spread. In addition, the committee will consider how communities of color can be assured access to COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. and recommend strategies to mitigate vaccine hesitancy among the American public. See the full project description.”
Atlas Obscura – “For decades, often using a fake identity, he stole antique maps worth thousands of dollars each…”
“…While the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna have announced promising updates on the vaccines they are developing, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has blamed President Trump for causing anxiety about the safety of potential immunization efforts. Anti-vaccine sentiment has been growing for decades, driven in part by a backlash against pharmaceutical companies. Fifty-eight percent of American adults said they were willing to take a coronavirus vaccine, according to a Gallup poll conducted between Oct. 19 and Nov. 1. Another poll, conducted last month by Ipsos and the World Economic Forum, found that 85 percent of Chinese adults, 79 percent of British adults and 76 percent of Canadian adults planned to be vaccinated, compared to 64 percent of Americans. The Ad Council has joined with a coalition of experts known as the Covid Collaborative, which concluded through its own survey that only one-third of Americans plan to get vaccinated…”
Washington Post: “The vaccines need to be distributed across 50 states, plus U.S. territories, that have different demographics and shifting needs. The leading products must be stored at different temperatures and have different minimum orders, with each requiring two shots though the three vaccines don’t all share the same schedule…Complicating matters: A final decision on who is eligible to get the early doses must wait for a federal advisory group’s recommendations. That can’t happen until regulators authorize the new vaccines. And once set in motion, the distribution — from loading dock to upper arm — has to be accomplished equitably and with as few handoffs as possible because it’s all being done amid a pandemic…”
Via Mary Whisner:
- Samir Ferdowski, This Database Is Finally Holding AI Accountable, Vice (Nov. 23, 2020). The Artificial Intelligence Incident Database (AIID) is a crowdsourced platform with intentions to wrangle in the Wild West of AI. “Fool me once, shame on me; fool me twice shame on you,” comes to mind, as the platform is being used to document and compile AI failures so they won’t happen again.
- Sean McGregor, When AI Systems Fail: Introducing the AI Incident Database, Partnership on AI (Nov. 18, 2020)
- The database: https://incidentdatabase.ai/discover/index.html?s=
“As coronavirus cases continue to surge and hospitals in some areas stretch to capacity, many states are once again imposing limits on businesses and everyday life. Some governors are closing sectors they had reopened after spring lockdowns. Others, wary of an ailing economy, are letting businesses remain largely open but setting stricter capacity limits or mandating the wearing of masks in public. The patchwork of approaches reflects the lack of a coherent federal policy to curb the pandemic, which shows no sign of slowing and which experts warn could accelerate in the winter. The New York Times is tracking coronavirus restrictions on the state level, including what businesses are open or closed — and whether officials require masks or recommend or order staying at home. Stricter local orders may also be in place. This page will be updated regularly…”
“…In the two-and-a-half years since the Task Force set to work, autonomous vehicles, robotics, and AI have advanced remarkably. But the world has not been turned on its head by automation, nor has the labor market. Despite massive private investment, technology deadlines have been pushed back, part of a normal evolution as breathless promises turn into pilot trials, business plans, and early deployments — the diligent, if prosaic, work of making real technologies work in real settings to meet the demands of hard-nosed customers and managers. Yet, if our research did not confirm the dystopian vision of robots ushering workers off of factory floors or artificial intelligence rendering superfluous human expertise and judgment, it did uncover something equally pernicious: Amidst a technological ecosystem delivering rising productivity, and an economy generating plenty of jobs (at least until the COVID-19 crisis), we found a labor market in which the fruits are so unequally distributed, so skewed towards the top, that the majority of workers have tasted only a tiny morsel of a vast harvest…”
- Report – The Work of the Future:Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines, 92 page PDF
“The Financial Stability Board (FSB) today published a report that examines the potential implications of climate change for financial stability. The report analyses how climate-related risks might be transmitted across, and might be amplified by, the financial system, including across borders. It also sets out next steps for the FSB’s work in this area. Current central estimates of the impact of physical risks on asset prices appear relatively contained but may be subject to considerable tail risk. The manifestation of physical risks could lead to a sharp fall in asset prices and increase in uncertainty. A disorderly transition to a low carbon economy could also have a destabilising effect on the financial system…”
Fast Company – “For those of us who spend most days in front of a computer, writing by hand can have refreshing benefits…When you write by hand, you write more thoughtfully. Such mindful writing rests the brain, unlocking potential creativity, says neuroscientist Claudia Aguirre. “Recent neuroscientific research has uncovered a distinct neural pathway that is only activated when we physically draw out our letters,” she writes. “And this pathway, etched deep with practice, is linked to our overall success in learning and memory.”
WAMU Podcast – 1A – “President Donald Trump is known to be keen on controlling the flow of information surrounding himself and his businesses. He reportedly tears up notes or documents from White House meetings. He employs nondisclosure agreements in both his professional and personal life. And White House aides have been known to use apps that delete text messages…
None of this bodes well for the historical record and for the scheduled transfer of materials from the White House to the National Archives, on January 20, 2021…”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues, November 22, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: What is doxxing? How to protect yourself from it; #Protect2020 Rumor vs. Reality; The Best VPN Service Providers Of 2020; and Your Computer Isn’t Yours.
Melissa Heelan, Could Giuliani Really Get Disbarred? Ethics Complaints Explained, U.S.L.W. (Nov. 23, 2020) “Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-N.J.), filed ethics complaints with disciplinary authorities in five states seeking to disbar Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and 22 other Trump campaign lawyers over their allegations of widespread election fraud.” [h/t Mary Whisner]
BBC News: “This year has seen so many seismic events that Oxford Dictionaries has expanded its word of the year to encompass several “Words of an Unprecedented Year”. Its words are chosen to reflect 2020’s “ethos, mood, or preoccupations”. They include bushfires, Covid-19, WFH, lockdown, circuit-breaker, support bubbles, keyworkers, furlough, Black Lives Matter and moonshot. Use of the word pandemic has increased by more than 57,000% this year.
Casper Grathwohl, the president of Oxford Dictionaries, said: “I’ve never witnessed a year in language like the one we’ve just had. The Oxford team was identifying hundreds of significant new words and usages as the year unfolded, dozens of which would have been a slam dunk for Word of the Year at any other time. “It’s both unprecedented and a little ironic – in a year that left us speechless, 2020 has been filled with new words unlike any other.”
Scientific American – “…The Moderna vaccine, whose remarkable effectiveness in a late-stage trial was announced Monday morning, emerged directly out of a partnership between Moderna and Dr. Barney Graham’s NIH laboratory. Coronavirus vaccines are likely to be worth billions to the drug industry if they prove safe and effective. As many as 14 billion vaccines would be required to immunize everyone in the world against COVID-19. If, as many scientists anticipate, vaccine-produced immunity wanes, billions more doses could be sold as booster shots in years to come. And the technology and production laboratories seeded with the help of all this federal largesse could give rise to other profitable vaccines and drugs. The vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna, which are likely to be the first to win FDA approval, in particular rely heavily on two fundamental discoveries that emerged from federally funded research: the viral protein designed by Graham and his colleagues, and the concept of RNA modification, first developed by Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó at the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, Moderna’s founders in 2010 named the company after this concept: “Modified” + “RNA” = Moderna, according to co-founder Robert Langer…”