Ready Or Not Here I Come For Your Data
July 26, 2019
“As more and more data flows from your body and brain to the smart machines via the biometric sensors, it will become easy for corporations and government agencies to know you, manipulate you, and make decisions on your behalf. Even more importantly, they could decipher the deep mechanisms of all bodies and brains, and thereby gain the power to engineer life. If we want to prevent a small elite from monopolising such godlike powers, and if we want to prevent humankind from splitting into biological castes, the key question is: who owns the data? Does the data about my DNA, my brain and my life belong to me, to the government, to a corporation, or to the human collective?” – Yuval Noah Harari
“It’s a basic, intuitive right, worthy of enshrinement: Citizens, not the corporations that stealthily track them, should own their own data.” – Franklin Foer
They Will Not Rest Until The Kremlin Is A-Crumblin’
“The czar is good; the noblemen are bad.” That is how some citizens of Russia feel as Vladimir Putin approaches his 20th year in power. Others feel differently, blaming the nation’s president for the problems and reforms that have affected cities and communities outside of Moscow. As communities continue to protest and have demonstrations against major reforms including plans to dump Moscow’s garbage on the outskirts of the city, there remains a split amongst politicians on proper course of action.
Some activists, such as Natalya Vlasova, are not so tame in their interpretations of the political system. Calling out Putin and his government system as a “power vertical” management system, she has spoken at multiple demonstrations, blaming the Kremlin and the government for being unable to solve problems like garbage removal and utilities for the past twenty years. However, those opposing the powerful governing body are few and scattered, leaving them as a minority in a country highly dominated by the presence of Putin’s influence.
That’s a Lot of Guac
- Avocado prices have been spiking recently in America, leading to a major increase in price for restaurants and customers. Analysis of wholesale prices of the fruit from Mexico, which supplies the majority of the United States’ avocados have shown a 91% increase in price since 2018.
- Partially due to weather conditions, California avocado production is significantly lower than it was last year, meaning that an increase of imports and price followed. Mexican farmers have attempted to take up the slack for the lack of production in California since the summer heat wave of 2018, but they’ve begun running out as well – leading to some restaurants selling guacamole… without avocados.
- Selling for as much as four dollars an avocado, some restaurants and consumers have taken the key ingredient off their menus and plates, as the prices are just a bit too high to keep up with. The ray of hope moving forward is that prices are expected to be lower by September, as production ramps back up in Mexico. (NPR)
No Guac But Plenty of Sugar
- In a two-part series published last week in The Lancet, dentists and public health experts focused on global oral health statistics and revealed the results of their study: cavities are on the rise, particularly in low-and middle income countries. The primary culprit causing widespread oral disease? Wait for it — sugar.
- A study co-author and associate director of global health and policy at NYU’s College of Dentistry says: “Low-income countries usually have traditional diets, more plant- and meat-based foods, less sugar and processed foods. But as a country’s socioeconomic conditions evolve … there’s a transition in terms of what people eat.” Not only are there increased sweetened food and beverage options, but also the convenience of simply reaching for cheap, fast foods — fried, high in fat and sweet.
- The sugar industry has been quick to “break into new areas and foster an interest in high sugar foods in particularly vulnerable populations,” she noted. (NPR)
- Not just for white, educated foodies’: shopping at the farmers’ market on food stamps: California is rich with agriculture, but the region has seen a decline in low-income residents at outdoor markets (Guardian)
3…2…1…Ready Or Not Here I Come For Your Data
- Computer scientists have developed algorithms and programs that can pick out any American in a database, even if they were stripped of personal information. “Anonymized” data has become a popular oddity in recent times as data continues to grow as an ever-important, ever-growing resource.
- In most of the world, anonymous data are not considered personal data – the information can be shared and sold without violating privacy laws, allowing market researchers to pay for large arrays of data – everything from dating preferences to political learnings, household purchases, or even streaming favorites.
- However, scientists have shown that information that has been “anonymized” can be easily re-identified from just bits of data. They’ve even gone as far as posting their software code online for anyone to use freely. Normally, after finding security flaws, vendors or government agencies hosting said data will be alerted, but considering the massive scale and depth of “anonymized” data banks available worldwide, the group decided that publishing the code would be the best way of publishing the findings. (NYT $)
North Korea Is Testing Our Patience (And Two Missiles)
- North Korea has fired two short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan for the first time since a meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. A South Korean defense official stated that the missiles were launched from mobile platforms at a site near Wonsan on North Korea’s coast.
- The tests followed shortly after a meeting between national security adviser John Bolton’s meeting with South Korean officials in Seoul discussing the possibility of strengthening the U.S. – South Korea alliance. John Bolton has been a notable hard-liner on relations with North Korea.
- The White House did not provide immediate response to the news, though South Korea’s Defense Ministry spokesman Choi Hyun-soo called the test “not helpful” in reducing tensions. Japan’s Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters in Tokyo that if ballistic missiles were fired, that it was a direct violation of United Nations sanctions.
- During a historic summit last June between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the president talked about how he had persuaded North Korea to denuclearize. A follow up summit in Hanoi earlier this year contradicted such statements, with North Korea showing very little signs of taking steps to end its nuclear or ballistic missile programs. (NPR)
Additional World News
- Paris Records Its Hottest Day, 108.6 Fahrenheit, as Heat Wave Scorches Europe (NYT, $)
- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Resigns In Wake Of Text Message Scandal (NPR)
- Jordan Creates Artificial Reef From Decommissioned Military Vehicles: The Red Sea port city of Aqaba is promoting the environmental and tourism benefits of the new underwater museum. (NYT, $)
Breakin’ Up After 50 Is Very Hard To Do
- The expression for splitting up after age 50 is ‘getting a gray divorce,’ and most couples who do that will face a major financial shock. Not Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now ex-wife Mackenzie Bezos, of course, but regular people.
- Divorcing in middle age can be particularly hazardous to one’s emotional as well as financial health, far worse than doing so at younger ages. A wave of new research is quantifying the damage. One expert says if you get divorced after age 50, expect your wealth to drop by about 50 percent, and women divorcing after age 50 can expect their standard of living to plunge 45 percent.
- A 2017 study found women 63 and older who went through a gray divorce have a poverty rate of 27 percent, more than any other group at that age. Then there’s the depression, and weight gain. (Bloomberg)
- Facetune and the internet’s endless pursuit of physical perfection: A face-perfecting app only widens the gap between our digital and real selves. (Vox)
- The problem of mindfulness: Mindfulness promotes itself as value-neutral but it is loaded with (troubling) assumptions about the self and the cosmos (Aeon)
- We’re More of Ourselves When We’re in Tune with Others: Music reminds us why going solo goes against our better nature. (Nautilus)
- How Weight Training Changes the Brain: In animals, weight training appeared to promote the creation of new neurons in the memory centers of the brain. (NYT, $)
- Waste Only: How the Plastics Industry Is Fighting to Keep Polluting the World (The Intercept)
- How the dust in your home may affect your health (WaPo, $)
- American Green: How did the plain green lawn become the central landscaping feature in America, and what is the ecological cost? (Longreads)
- The Lessons of a Hideous Forest: The insistence of wild growth at Fresh Kills Landfill should make us rethink nature. (NYT, $)
- What are click farms? A shadowy internet industry is booming in China (Yahoo Finance)
“If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.” – Jim Barksdale
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