Unconventional Conventions | Paying For In-Person | Faking Your Death on Twitter
August 6, 2020
Congrats to Sebastian E. for winning last week’s Daily Pnut quiz and earning himself a free Daily Pnut t-shirt. The quiz returns tomorrow, so make sure to read up!
The Good News:
- Stressed out? Hug a llama: Therapy llama ‘Caesar the No Drama Llama’ calms tensions at protests (WaPo, $)
- Nature finds a way: Satellite imagery reveals new penguin colonies in Antarctica (CNN)
- From concrete jungle to actual jungle: Our Towns: A Plan to Grow 90,000 Trees in Los Angeles (Atlantic, $)
“Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token to save it from that ruin, which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. An education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their choice of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.” – Hannah Arendt
Mind the Gap
COVID-19 has exposed many fractures in various systems across the US. Individual states have been left on their own to decide everything from mandatory mask-wearing to where the public can drink and dine. The pandemic has also impacted the education of America’s school children, with research suggesting that school closures have widened achievement gaps.
“The virus is this huge stress test on our education system. It has exposed a great deal of inequity, and we are going to see this only exacerbated in the coming months, not years,” said an education professional. “Certain kids in certain systems…are going to get much closer to what looks like a typical high-quality education than others.”
Fall reopening plans are illustrative of this problem. Public schools, which serve about 90 percent of American children, tend to have less money, larger class sizes and less flexibility to make changes to things like their curriculum, facilities, or workforce. Many public schools in large urban districts have students who most need to attend classes in-person, due to a lack of the necessary technology for online learning, or their parents’ lack of time to oversee their online sessions. Yet these students generally will be the most likely not to return to in-person instruction. One example of this is the Chicago public school system, the third-largest district in the nation, which will reopen in an online-only format.
Meanwhile, many private and parochial schools — with their smaller class sizes, greater resources, and well-off supporters — are finding ways to move ahead with reopening plans that are outside the grasp of public school systems. A dispute that arose in Maryland highlights what has become a national debate over equity.
Facing a recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases, public school officials in Maryland directed that over a million children would start the school year from home. On Friday, Montgomery County’s top public health official said that private and parochial schools would also have to stick to online teaching until at least October 1. But on Monday, Maryland’s Republican governor abruptly overruled the county’s directive, arguing that private schools should be allowed to make their own reopening decisions. That same day, a group of parents filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the county’s order, claiming it discriminated against private and religious schools.
As the wrangling roils on, an expert on education policy said: “Parents in private schools are just generally more able to get their preferences heard.” He added that allowing private schools to opt out of public health orders provides new evidence of how America’s schools are “really efficient engines of inequality.”
Kenya Calls It Quits
(Jean Pierre Kepseu via Getty Images)
- As the pandemic took hold in Kenya, some school students were able to continue taking classes online while others could not. But an announcement made in July by education officials will likely make educational inequality even worse. Although the Kenyan school year generally runs from January to November, the Kenyan government decided to erase the current 2020 academic year and restart it next January.
- The decision to scrap the entire school year, which had been debated for months, affects more than 90,000 schools and over 18 million students in pre-primary through high school, including 150,000 more in refugee camps. National exams usually taken in a student’s last year of primary school and high school are postponed, and no new students will be admitted in 2021.
- The officials’ goal wasn’t just to protect teachers and students from COVID-19, but to address glaring issues of inequality — between students who had access and those who didn’t — which arose when school was closed in March. However, rather than leveling the playing field, researchers say that canceling the entire school year means that, when schools reopen, there will be two sets of students who will not be on the same level, or be able to compete equally in national exams.
- Education experts believe Kenya is the only nation to have taken this drastic approach. One 18-year-old senior, who had counted on graduating so she could get a job to help support her seven siblings, lamented: “It’s a sad and great loss. This pandemic has destroyed everything.” (NYT)
The Enemy of My Enemy…
- The US cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 1979, in keeping with America’s acknowledgement that there could be only one legitimate government in China. While US officials have visited Taiwan from time to time, no high-level delegation has been sent in 41 years. But in a few days, US health secretary and COVID-19 taskforce chair Alex Azar will lead such a delegation to Taiwan to discuss the pandemic and to “celebrate the shared values” of the two democracies.
- “Taiwan has been a model of transparency and cooperation in global health during the COVID-19 pandemic and long before it,” Azar said, adding, “I look forward to conveying President Trump’s support for Taiwan’s global health leadership and underscoring our shared belief that free and democratic societies are the best model for protecting and promoting health.”
- The US visit is already fuelling tensions with China, which claims Taiwan as its own and vows that it will be brought under control by force if necessary. On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry said it firmly opposed official interaction between the US and Taiwan, and it had lodged “stern representations” with the US. State media reported that China had also urged the US “not to send the wrong signals to Taiwan secessionists.”
- Despite these requests, the US has provided assistance to Taiwan in the form of arms sales, and has an increasing presence in the South China Sea. The official visit comes at the lowest point in US-Sino relations in four decades, with hostilities on multiple fronts including trade, technology, human rights, and China’s crackdown on Hong Kong’s independent status. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- A closer look at what went wrong in Lebanon:Blame for Beirut Explosion Begins With a Leaky, Troubled Ship (NYT, $)
- Alarm at Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Beirut blast was an ‘attack’ (Guardian)
- In Afghanistan, Russia Is Fighting—and Winning—an Information War Against the United States (Foreign Policy)
- Kremlin in your computer: US accuses Russia of conducting sophisticated disinformation and propaganda campaign (CNN)
- Hiroshima 75th Anniversary: Preserving Survivors’ Message of Peace (NYT, $). As global tensions rise, it is always worthwhile to consider the past.
- How Satellites Can Save Arms Control (Foreign Affairs)
- China Foreign Minister Rejects Attempts to Create ‘New Cold War’ With U.S. (Bloomberg)
- India keeps tight lid on Kashmir on anniversary of revoking semi-autonomy (Reuters)
- China, Climate Change, and COVID-19: An Interview With Kevin Rudd (The Diplomat)
- Rising temperatures will cause more deaths than all infectious diseases (Guardian)
- The pandemic wedges a generational gap: The South Koreans left behind in a contact-free society (BBC)
- COVID opens new doors for China’s gene giant (Reuters)
- Looking beyond the vaccine: Many COVID-19 patients loss their sense of smell. Will they get it back? (NatGeo)
- COVID-19 and children: Doctors see link between virus and neurological side effects (NBC)
- As the Virus Spreads Through M.L.B., So Does Frustration (NYT, $)
- What Mask Should I Wear If I’m Going Back to the Gym? (Vice). Tips for those looking to shed those quarantine pounds.
- People are dying after drinking hand sanitizer, CDC says (CNN)
- Anthony Fauci Says Covid Vaccine Will Be Safe Despite Speed of Development (Bloomberg)
- Inherent inequities: Your Income Predicts How Well You Can Socially Distance (Wired, $)
(Mark Makela via Getty Images)
- The Democratic National Convention will kick off Monday, August 17 and will run until Thursday, August 20. The event will be held entirely online, with programming from 9 pm to 11 pm ET each night. Until the convention committee’s announcement on Wednesday, Democratic presumptive nominee Joe Biden was scheduled to travel to Milwaukee to give his acceptance speech in person. Biden will now deliver his keynote speech in his home state of Delaware.
- The Democratic National Committee (DNC) cited a desire to avoid endangering the health of the city of Milwaukee and the wide range of workers who would arrive for the convention amid the pandemic. DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement: “We followed the science, listened to doctors and public health experts, and we continued making adjustments to our plans in order to protect lives. That’s the kind of steady and responsible leadership America deserves. And that’s the leadership Joe Biden will bring to the White House.”
- The cancellation of all convention-related travel to Wisconsin marks the latest coronavirus disruption to campaigning as usual, ending any hope of a traditional, made-for-TV bonanza that drives party enthusiasm before the November election. But Democrats are still excitedly awaiting Biden’s announcement of his vice-presidential choice; he has said he will make his final decision this week, with a public announcement coming Monday, August 10. 13 women have been under consideration, among them former presidential candidates and senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. (Politico, NYT)
No Trust in the Big Apple
- In the wake of a federal antitrust hearing on the monopolistic power of big tech in America, New York state introduced a pioneering antitrust bill that seeks to reign in the influence of Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple. Bill S8700A — which is currently under review from the state’s consumer protection committee — aims to eliminate a loophole in New York law that prevented smaller companies from suing tech giants when they attempt to snuff out competition.
- When New York’s antitrust laws first went on the books at the turn of the 20th century, anti-competitive business practices such as price setting usually involved just two firms. Nowadays, tech companies are so massive that lawmakers are looking to update antitrust laws to include monopolistic actions by individual firms in order to make them easier to prosecute.
- The proposed legislation filters through the New York Senate as many officials react to last week’s high profile tech hearing in Washington D.C. Many in government feel as if companies like Amazon and Facebook have flown too close to the sun, and overestimate their political power.
- Senator Mike Gianaris, the bill’s sponsor, says that tech companies obviously feel “invulnerable” in the current climate, and that “they feel like they can get away with things nobody else can.” Included in the bill are revisions to state law that extend jail time and fiscal penalties for companies caught unilaterally suppressing competition.
- Initial response to the legislation has been positive on both sides of the aisle, bolstered by the support of NY Attorney General Letitia James. The bill is slated to be discussed in further detail when the senate returns in August, but any legislative movement is not expected to come until 2021. (Guardian)
Additional USA News:
- US dollar headed lower, in retreat against the euro (Reuters) COVID-19 dampens the value of the dollar.
- After a Year of Investigation, the Border Patrol Has Little to Say About Agents’ Misogynistic and Racist Facebook Group (ProPublica)
- The pace of progress: Minneapolis will not put dismantling of police department on November ballot (Guardian)
- Parks In Nonwhite Areas Are Half The Size Of Ones In Majority-White Areas, Study Says (NPR)
- The Supreme Court votes against extra COVID-19 safety measures in jails: Split 5 to 4, Supreme Court Rules for California Jail Over Virus Measures (NYT, $)
- Iowa ends lifetime voting ban on people with felony convictions (Guardian)
- Traditional Democrats breaking ranks: Left-wing candidates keep racking up wins in challenge to Democratic establishment (WaPo, $)
- Trump’s stream of subconsciousness becomes a torrent in car-crash interview (Guardian)
A Fake Death in Science Twitter
- On the mean streets of Twitter, it’s best practice not to take everything you see at face value. With the proliferation of bots and automated accounts, it can be hard to tell if users on the avian app are even real people. Arizona State University learned this lesson all too well last week, when an internet hoax left administrators scrambling to follow up on reports that an anthropology professor had died from COVID-19.
- In reality, such a professor never existed. It was merely the online alter ego of one BethAnn McGlaughlin, a spurned ex-Vanderbilt neuroscientist who created the fake persona of a Native American bi-sexual anthropologist under the psuedonym @Sciencing_Bi.
- The anonymous account often chimed in to online discussions surrounding sexual misconduct in scientific academia, along with shocking claims that her employer, Arizona State, was complicit in her contraction of COVID-19. On July 31st, after months of fabricated build-up, the real Twitter account of BethAnn McGlaughlin announced that the @Sciencing_Bi died due to virus complications.
- The phony death announcement raised the eyebrows of other academics in the field, prompting them to direct their suspicion towards McGaughlin, who received disproportionate online praise from the fake Twitter professor. As it turns out, McGlaughlin — a white woman — had created an entire backstory and ethnicity for her perverted passion project. Over the course of her Twitter career, she alleged workplace discrimination as a researcher who was both bi-sexual and from the Native American Hopi Tribe.
- Once the death and existence of @Sciencing_Bi was proven to be a hoax by Arizona State administrators, McGlaughlin admitted in a statement from her lawyer that she took “full responsibility” for the faux-account. (NYT, $)
- Trader Joe’s Knows That Petitions Aren’t Commandments (Atlantic, $)
- “Sir, I’m just trying to do my job”: Inside the Courthouse Break-Ins that Landed 2 White Hat Hackers in Jail (Wired, $)
- Will business travel ever be the same? (BBC)
- TikTok Finally Explains How the ‘For You’ Algorithm Works (Wired, $)
- With no in-person social pressure to keep you on task, working from home makes staying productive hard: How to block out digital distractions and get work done (Popular Science)
- Everybody is different, so picking your approach to experiencing life is important: How to find your mindfulness (Psyche)
- Weird Mystery Seeds Arriving by Mail Sprout Biodiversity Concerns (Scientific American)
- ‘Inception’ at 10: Christopher Nolan Is Still Saving Cinema (Atlantic, $)
- Paul McCartney says he sued The Beatles to save the band’s music (NBC)
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