The Business Side of Emojis | Vaccine on the Horizon | No Haven in Copenhagen
July 21, 2020
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
Testing, Testing, COVID Vaccine
(Steve Parsons via Getty Images)
In the midst of continuing COVID-19 surges, there’s more than a glimmer of hope for the arrival of a successful vaccine. Oxford University’s experimental version was revealed to be safe and to generate a strong immune response in volunteers. Professor Sarah Gilbert of Oxford’s Jenner Institute said the first results showed good immunity after a single dose of vaccine. Study results were published Monday in the Lancet medical journal.
More than 1,000 healthy volunteers were involved in the clinical trials — half received the vaccine, while the other half were given a meningitis vaccine. The effect of the experimental vaccine was measured by the amount of antibodies and T-cells it generated in the blood of the volunteers, not in any response to the virus itself.
Ideally the vaccine would protect against any infection, but scientists acknowledge that it may only reduce the severity of the disease and recovery time. Big questions remain over whether the vaccine will work in older adults, as flu vaccinations don’t give as much protection to older people, whose immune systems are weaker than those of younger people. Beginning at about 65, the risk of dying from COVID-19 rises dramatically with age. Safety trials are underway in groups of older adults.
Gilbert and her colleagues won’t predict when the vaccine might be available. The lockdown imposed in the UK in late March drastically cut down on COVID-19 infections and saved lives, but it also made it difficult to run vaccine trials. However, large-scale trials have begun in Brazil and South Africa, where infection rates are still high and it will be possible to assess whether vaccinated individuals are less likely than others to get the virus.
One Country, Failed Systems
- Several countries have condemned China’s new security law giving Beijing sweeping police powers over Hong Kong. Beijing’s treatment of the former British colony is particularly vexing to Great Britain, with politicians displaying their disapproval on Monday by suspending an extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Britain has also offered to take in almost three million Hong Kong residents should they choose to leave the city; the offer was accompanied by a pathway to obtain British citizenship.
- The Chinese government under President Xi Jinping is viewed by western democracies as having reneged on the agreement in place when the crown colony of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1977 after 156 years of British rule.
- The agreement outlined a “one country, two systems” plan that made Hong Kong a special administrative region, ensuring it more freedoms and self-governance than on the mainland. The plan provided Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy outside of matters of foreign relations and national defense.
- But this year, after months of pro democracy demonstrations on the island, Xi Jinping’s government passed a new security law criminalizing activities and imposing harsh new penalties, effectively quashing even basic freedoms. The move to suspend the extradition agreement further escalated tensions between China and the UK. Last week, parliament reversed a decision to allow the Chinese technology giant Huawei to play a role in establishing Britain’s 5G high-speed wireless network. (NYT)
No Haven in Copenhagen
- Denmark passed a law, which went into effect one year ago, that will force sweeping changes in 15 public housing complexes across the country that the government calls “hard ghettos.” These complexes are given their “hard ghetto” status on the basis of both their socioeconomic standing and racial makeup. The legislation compels housing associations to sell or redevelop 40 percent of public housing stock in these low-rent, ethnic minority enclaves.
- Residents are to be offered the chance to be rehomed in and around the area they’re currently living in, but anyone who refuses to leave will be evicted. Danish media has called the law “the greatest social experiment of this century,” but experts contend that no other modern European country has attempted to relocate their citizens by targeting non-whites and immigrants; they point to other harsh anti-immigration policies passed by Danish lawmakers.
- 12 Mjolnerparken residents, whose two housing blocks are due to be sold due to the act, are suing the government. Their case compares Mjolnerparken with a similar area, Byparken, in a town west of Copenhagen. The argument is made that Byparken has roughly the same socio-economic challenges as Mjolnerparken, only the majority of its residents are white Danes. The attorney representing the Mjolnerparken residents said: “When you make the decisive criteria ethnicity, then you have a problem.”
- Proponents counter that the government’s “no ghettos in 2030” plan seeks to create a parallel society to ensure cities in Denmark are mixed, something that “strengthens the cohesion of our welfare society and provides a more equal opportunity for all children and adults.” (CNN)
Additional World News
- EU leaders set to seal deal on spending and €750bn Covid-19 recovery plans (Guardian)
- Data analysis on downed Ukraine jet starts Tuesday; Canada sceptical about Iran explanation (Reuters)
- Coronavirus sheds light on Canada’s poor treatment of migrant workers (Guardian)
- U.S. Imposes Sanctions on 11 Chinese Companies Over Human Rights (NYT, $)
- China May Retaliate Against Nokia and Ericsson If EU Countries Move to Ban Huawei (WSJ, $)
- TikTok fails to shake off authoritarian links to Chinese state (Guardian)
- For Women in Afghan Security Forces, a Daily Battle (NYT, $)
- ‘Violence and abuse are too often a part of the child athlete’s experience’ in Japan — report (CNN)
- Most polar bears to disappear by 2100, study predicts (Guardian)
- Coronavirus collateral damage: malaria and tuberculosis deaths may rise because the world is fixated on Covid-19 (Vox)
- I Was an Army COVID Planner. Trust Me: Texas Is F*cked. (The Daily Beast)
- Young Covid-19 survivors warn they’re still suffering (CNN)
- Europe Said It Was Pandemic-Ready. Pride Was Its Downfall. (NYT)
- The Rich Are Looking to Buy Access to Covid Safe Havens (Bloomberg)
- Coronavirus: Movie, TV, and entertainment industry delays and cancellations (Vox)
- How (and when) to put together a social bubble (PopSci)
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(Al Drago via Getty Images)
- As the pandemic took hold early this spring, millions of Americans were able to hold onto their jobs when their employers began to cut wages and hours to weather what they expected would be a short-term shutdown. But months later, COVID-19 continues to rage, the US economy is sinking lower, and many fear those temporary cuts might become permanent — and even pave the way for further layoffs.
- A new study by economists analyzing data from a payroll processing company shows that at least four million US workers have received pay cuts since February, and millions more have seen pay freezes, all while maintaining the same workload as before the crisis.
- Other economists say the number of workers who’ve faced pay cuts is closer to seven million. Combined with those who’ve had their hours cut, the number climbs to 20 million people — 1 in 8 workers — who’ve seen their paychecks shrink over the past few months.
- “We have an income crisis that is even larger than a jobless crisis,” said a macroeconomic expert. Even so, employees tend to feel they have no better options than to accept less money for the same work. A New York Federal Reserve survey found that Americans think they have less than a 50 percent chance of finding a new job within three months if they became unemployed today — a 16 point drop from a year ago. (Politico)
Yoo Can’t Do That, Can You?
- John Yoo is the former Bush administration Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) lawyer who wrote the infamous legal justification for various torture techniques, including waterboarding. An OLC memo Yoo drafted in August 2002 stated: “Necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate the criminal prohibition against torture.”
- Trump administration officials have been consulting with Yoo on how the president might use executive orders to circumvent Congress and rule by decree. Yoo maintains a recent Supreme Court ruling on immigration would allow President Trump to issue orders that flout federal law. A defense counsel in the 9/11 terrorism cases against inmates in the Guantánamo Bay prison camp said: “John Yoo’s so-called reasoning has always been based on ‘What can the president get away with?’ rather than ‘What is the purpose and letter of the law?’ That is not legal reasoning, it’s inherently tyrannical and anti-democratic.”
- On Sunday, Trump declared in a Fox News interview that he would try to use Yoo’s interpretations to force through decrees on healthcare, immigration, and “various other plans” over the coming month. Constitutional scholars and human rights activists point to the deployment of paramilitary federal forces against protesters in Portland as a sign that Trump is eager to embrace this broad interpretation of presidential powers as a means to suppress basic constitutional rights. Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe tweeted: “This is how it begins. The dictatorial hunger for power is insatiable. If ever there was a time for peaceful civil disobedience, that time is upon us.” (Guardian)
Additional USA News
- Trump threatens to deploy federal agents to Chicago and other U.S. cities led by Democrats (WaPo, $)
- Trump and Republicans divided on key pieces of coronavirus relief (Politico) & As Trump Ignores Virus Crisis, Republicans Start to Contradict Him (NYT, $)
- Democrats demand FBI brief Congress on foreign ‘disinformation’ campaign targeting 2020 election (CNN)
- Florida teachers sue governor, education department over plans to reopen schools (CBS). Teachers have been underpaid since long before the COVID-19 outbreak. With the added possibility of infection arising with the coming school year, we don’t blame them for this at all.
- East Coast heat wave scorches Washington, NYC as next heat dome builds (WaPo, $)
- Why John Lewis’ life’s work was never finished: Mitch McConnell and his party. (Slate)
- Father Soldier Son: The New York Times spent a decade chronicling the cost of war and the call to service for an American family. (NYT, $)
- How Goya and Trump Made Beans a Political Statement (NYT, $)
- ‘The guy stinks and he’s a racist’: Anthony Scaramucci on Donald Trump (Guardian)
- Who Were the Freedom Riders? (NYT, $)
Admojis Are Everything
- Emoji have become an undeniable facet of human communication. There are now more than 3,000 of these digital pictographs, with 100 new ones as diverse as a dodo bird, a woman wearing a tuxedo, and the transgender flag. Their appeal is universal because they allow us to augment otherwise flat online messages by quickly adding a dimension of fun to our online communications.
- But they’re not just a visual way to communicate — letting us instantly express emotions and feelings and interests to friends and relatives via tiny cute pictures — they also provide a lot of information to companies that can use them to directly target us with ads. Emoji are influential enough that companies have fought for the recognition of their products showing up in emoji keyboards.
- Ford ran a secret campaign last year to get a pickup truck emoji approved by the Unicode Consortium, the body that oversees what tiny pictures we can see on our devices. By the end of 2020, a truck emoji will be puttering about, although it won’t include any Ford branding.
- The head of Emojipedia, an online dictionary dedicated to emoji tells us why these tiny pictures are important: “Because they do carry cultural weight. There is a limited set and they’re on every phone in the world. What else do we have that kind of meets that criteria in the world? I really don’t know.” (Vox)
- They wanted to hear their readers’ opinions. Then the proslavery guy wrote a letter to the editor. (WaPo, $)
- Are we bored out of our minds, or do we just have too much to think about?: What the mysterious boredom divide teaches us (BBC)
- Mental Resilience Can Help You Through the Coronavirus Pandemic; Here’s How to Build It. (WSJ, $)
- It’s always best to not leave things until the last minute: Why making plans helps manage pandemic stress (BBC)
- The Terrible Consequences of Australia’s Uber-Bushfires (Wired, $)
- Nostalgia doesn’t need real memories – an imagined past works as well (Aeon)
- Lab-made meat is one of the technological innovations we look forward to the most: KFC is working with a Russian 3D bioprinting firm to try to make lab-produced chicken nuggets (Verge)
- Not all child actors are the spoiled brats that the media chooses to focus on: In “Showbiz Kids,” Alex Winter Weighs the Costs of Child Stardom (New Yorker, $)
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