Trickle-Down Troubles | Anti-Antebellum | Who Let the (Robot) Dogs Out
June 17, 2020
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“You know what’s truly weird about any financial crisis? We made it up. Currency, money, finance, they’re all social inventions. When the sun comes up in the morning it’s shining on the same physical landscape, all the atoms are in place.”
The Realities of the Corona-conomy
(Spencer Platt via Getty Images)
While things looked bad for the economy at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that the layoffs and shortages of the past few months are just the tip of the iceberg. While over 40 million people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, economists have an even gloomier outlook for the future.
One sandwich shop, named Pekadill’s, in sleepy Whitehall, Michigan shows us the ripple effects of the virus. The sandwich shop, which would normally be training new employees for summer jobs feeding hungry tourists to nearby White Lake, is instead just scraping by. Owner John Dillivan said business was down roughly 20%, and is considering shuttering Pekadill’s windows temporarily come winter.
The town’s biggest employer, Howmet Aerospace, was hit hard by the spread of COVID-19. The company provides parts to bigger aerospace firms, such as Boeing, who provide whole airplanes to airlines including United. When United faced lower passenger demand due to flight restrictions in the face of the virus, a ripple effect was created in their supply chain: United cut down on its orders for new planes made by Boeing, which in turn cut down on its supply chain, hurting Howmet’s business. In Whitehall, this meant less customers for Pekadill’s, who supplied Howmet with catering for its various corporate meetings.
Stories like this can be found across the nation: businesses are all connected in hard-to-find ways, and they’re all in for a hard time, according to Fed chair Jerome H. Powell. Powell stated, “This is the biggest economic shock in the U.S. and in the world, really, in living memory. We went from the lowest level of unemployment in 50 years to the highest level in close to 90 years, and we did it in two months.”
In addition to Powell’s statement, here are a few more not-so-fun numbers: Oxford Economics claims that around 9 million people who have been laid off temporarily will eventually fully lose their jobs. In the second quarter of the year, the Congressional Budget Office projects economic shrinkage of about $800 billion. And in Whitehall? Howmet Aerospace, which paid the city roughly 15% of its tax revenue and 57% of its water and sewer funds, just saw its stock values drop by over 60% since February.
- Jerome Powell Has The Most Humiliating Job In America (NPR)
- US-China trade war takes toll on competitiveness (BBC)
- Layoffs Are Coming. Employers Need to Do Them Right. (NYT, $)
- Dollar Crash: How Will It Unfold? (Bloomberg, $)
- You Now Get Almost Nothing for Your Money, but It Could Be Worse (NYT, $)
American Made Misinformation: Our Own Worst Enemy
- Robby Mook, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign manager, has been under scrutiny after a conspiracy theory went viral on the night of the Iowa caucus in February. The hashtag #RobbyMookCaucusApp was trending across the country and thousands of Twitter users accused him of developing an app to rig the Democratic primary against Senator Bernie Sanders.
- However, Mr. Mook had never even heard of the app – which was developed by company Shadow Inc. Mr. Mook was the target of an American-made social media conspiracy theory that was picked up by Americans and quickly amplified by accounts with Russian links.
- This story finds many similarities with, but also shows a very stark shift from, the tale of the 2016 election. In 2016, a Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency was identified to have interfered directly in the presidential election.
- Clint Watts, a former F.B.I. special agent, said, “The Kremlin doesn’t need to make fake news anymore. It’s all American made.” Researchers have reported that it is easier for foreign agents to identify divisive content from real Americans and help it spread through low-profile networks of social media accounts than create tales of their own. “Russia’s trolls learned it is far more effective to find the sore spots and amplify content by native English speakers than it is to spin out their own wackadoodle conspiracy theories,” said Cindy Otis, a former C.I.A. analyst. (NYT)
Just Two Genetically Altered Peas In A Genetically Altered Pod
- A change to the new UK Agriculture Bill is being proposed when it reaches committee stages in Britain’s House of Lords next month. Peers are preparing plans to legalize the gene-editing of crops in England, a practice that is highly restricted by EU regulations. The amendment seeks to give the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs the power to make changes to the Environmental Protection Act, alterations that would no longer restrict gene-editing in England.
- Scientists say legalizing gene-editing would offer the nation a chance to develop and grow hardier, more nutritious varieties. The legislation would also open the door to gene-editing of animals. The rest of the UK would need separate legislation.
- The strict European laws that govern genetically modified (GM) organisms also cover the gene-editing of plants and animals. However, scientists say gene-editing is cheaper, faster, simpler, safer and more precise than GM technology. “Early benefits for UK agriculture could include gluten-free wheat, disease-resistant sugar beet and potatoes that are even healthier than those that we have now,” said a plant scientist at Cambridge University.
- Wide use of gene-editing could also give the nation a key advantage in agriculture and in the food industry after Brexit. (Guardian)
- British farmers need all the help science can offer. Time to allow gene editing (Guardian)
Additional World News
- India-China clash: Two sides blames each other for deadly fighting (BBC)
- Facebook to let users turn off political adverts (BBC)
- North Korea raises tension with pledge to send troops to border with South (Guardian)
- Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug (BBC)
- Record spike in new coronavirus cases reported in six U.S. states as reopening accelerates (Reuters) & Florida Officials Spar Over Rising COVID-19 Cases (NPR)
- The US Is Done With COVID-19, But it Isn’t Done With the US (Time)
- Japanese researchers confirm coronavirus testing in sewers as possible outbreak warning system (Reuters)
- Trump Hydroxychloroquine Push Secured Millions of Likely Useless Coronavirus Pills (NYT, $) & The Pandemic Claims New Victims: Prestigious Medical Journals (NYT, $)
- Schools Shut in Beijing as Coronavirus Flares (NYT, $)
- ‘Unacceptable failure’: New Zealand brings in military after Covid-19 quarantine fiasco (Guardian)
- Covid-19 cases: Would a second round of shutdowns be effective? (Vox)
- Is It Worth Leaving a Big City Because of the Pandemic? (Atlantic, $)
Gone With the Movies & Statues
- “Gone With the Wind” is something of a cultural monument. Or rather, it was. Now it joins many other Confederate monuments in the dumpster. Before HBO Max took the movie down from streaming, the movie wound its way into various niches in the US, informing many people’s image of the antebellum South.
- The 4-hour long movie (“The Fellowship of the Ring” runs 3 and a half hours) and the novel it’s based off have long garnered support from some groups and criticism from others. The book, which author Margaret Mitchell expected to sell 5,000 copies, sold 7 million copies in 3 years and quickly secured a film deal.
- When the film adaptation was released in 1939, the US was overrun with a revival of the “Old South” aesthetic, which inevitably led to nostalgia for the time period, and often the racial hierarchy that came with it. The film’s title cards describe its setting in the antebellum South “a land of Cavaliers and Cotton fields,” a “pretty world where Gallantry took its last bow.”
- One black paper, the Pittsburgh Courier, said the film portrayed all blacks as “happy house servants and unthinking, helpless clods.” White crowds largely ignored these criticisms and instead pined for the over-the-top aesthetics of the movie, ignoring the novel’s depiction of the Ku Klux Klan as “a tragic necessity”.
- Today, many people still look back on the film with fondness due to its aesthetic hooks, but even the Margaret Mitchell House has begun highlighting the hidden racial controversy of the novel and its setting. (NYT)
- Lady Antebellum Change Band Name: “We Are Deeply Sorry” (Pitchfork)
- Key & Peele have captured the zeitgeist of how we are reevaluating history: Dad’s Hollywood Secret. That video captures a lot about how we all feel about the past right now, and how our grandkids will probably feel about many of us. And this captures race relations in the USA right now: Awkward Apologies from White People – Key & Peele
- If there is a move antonym to Gone With the Wind it’s probably Django Unchained Trailer
From Prison Sentence to Death Sentence: Catching a Case
(Scott Olson via Getty Images)
- COVID-19 hotbeds around the US — such as nursing homes and cruise ships — have implemented strict practices to help them curb infection rates amongst their vulnerable populations. Now, the viral epicenter has shifted to a new location: America’s prison system.
- While national case rates have remained relatively stagnant since mid-May, coronavirus cases amongst inmates have skyrocketed. Prisons are reporting a startling 73% increase in COVID-related deaths, and the number of confirmed cases has doubled to more than 68,000.
- These alarming rates come from a gross lack of testing for a virus that thrives in overcrowded spaces such as prisons. The federal government has yet to implement social distancing measures and facility officials are resisting calls for large-scale testing.
- Mitigation strategies vary drastically throughout the nation, and the lack of federal guidance is costing many prisoners their lives. Scenes from New York City show local holding cells flooded with arrested protestors, indicating that it’s not just prisons that are failing to keep inmates safe.
- While more stringent social distancing mandates seem like a must, there are no easy solutions for America’s correctional institutions. Social distancing in the context of imprisonment leads to the increased use of solitary confinement. As more facilities suffer COVID-related deaths, more prisoners will likely be subjected to intense isolation across the country. (NYT)
- Punishment by Pandemic (New Yorker, $)
Additional US News
- House and Senate set for clash on police reform (Politico)
- Trump team prepares $1 trillion infrastructure plan to spur economy (Reuters)
- Air force sergeant linked to ‘boogaloo’ movement charged in federal officer’s death (Guardian)
- Trump Made Inaccurate Claims About the Military During His West Point Speech (NYT, $) & The Court-Martial of Donald J. Trump (NYT, $)
- Trump praises scientists for developing AIDS vaccine that doesn’t exist (CNBC)
Black Lives Matter
- Racial terror: 2,000 black Americans were lynched in Reconstruction era, report says (Guardian)
- Oluwatoyin Salau found dead in Tallahassee, Florida, after sharing story of sexual assault on Twitter (Vox)
- How Public Opinion Has Moved on Black Lives Matter (NYT, $)
- Kadir Nelson’s “Say Their Names” (New Yorker)
- Racism Is Terrible. Blackness Is Not. (Atlantic, $)
- What is Juneteenth? (NYT, $)
- Los Angeles activists were already pushing to defund the police. Then George Floyd died. (NBC)
Who Let the (Robot) Dogs Out?
- Boston Dynamics, an American robotics company best known for their unnervingly agile humanoids, is taking its first crack at a commercial robot. Introducing Spot, the yellow robotic dog. This electronic companion is capable of twerking, moonwalking, and, most importantly, working jobs too dangerous for humans.
- Early adopters have been exploring the robot’s application in the workplace: sending Spot into mine shafts to capture images, using it as an autonomous security guard, or even programming it to screen patients for COVID-19. What a good boy!
- Before you rush to the Boston Dynamics website to purchase your own personal dog-bot, you might want to check the price tag. With a starting price of $74,500, it’s clear that this machine is meant for more than a walk in the park. Recommended add-ons range from $1,000- $35,000, so be prepared to break the bank in pursuit of that remote-control canine you’ve always dreamed of.
- For any evil geniuses out there, this robot isn’t for you either. A clause in the user agreement “prohibits the use of robots from harming people, or simulating harming people.”
- The hefty price tag insinuates that this product is for businesses looking to integrate robots to replace risky or inefficient human tasks. Boston Dynamics’ engineers envision the robot solely as a workforce dog for the time-being. Expect to find Spot doing dull, dirty and dangerous work — what experts call the “three Ds”— in the near future. (Wired)
- The quest to reduce light pollution and bring stars back to Pittsburgh (Verge)
- On Social Media, Who’s a Bot? Who’s Not? (NYT, $)
- The Internet Needs a New Architecture that Puts Users First (Wired, $)
- We love chess and ever since we started playing in the mid-1990s we’ve been witness to Nakamura’s gift for the game: The Grandmaster Who Got Twitch Hooked on Chess (Wired, $)
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