Friday Links

Today the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine made by Moderna, which will now be known as Spikevax.The vaccine had been authorized for emergency use for more than a year and has been a mainstay of the US vaccination campaign.

The researchers found that in six out of the seven countries (Germany was the exception), the algorithm significantly favoured the amplification of tweets from politically right-leaning sources.

[p]ersonal heating sources with similar effects as hot water bottles could save a great deal of energy while maintaining and often even improving thermal comfort. For example, one study revealed that lowering the air temperature in an office from 20.5°C to 18.8°C (69°F to 66°F) and giving employees a heated chair to compensate for the discomfort leads to 35% less energy use and consistently higher scores for thermal comfort.

The NSPCC isn’t seeking franchises in other countries where the law requires charities to be more equivocal about the issue of cruelty to children. It’s not looking to be flexible about that and so perhaps change its name to something less controversial like the National Society for the Prevention of Killing Children, or even the National Society for the Prevention of Killing Too Many Children, in order to build a client base in a new territory and expand the global outreach of its collection boxes. It’s a powerful reminder of how institutions with charitable status behave when they happen actually to be charities.

Some of those with a penchant for irritating spelling call it the "smol web." It's light enough for vintage computers, and easy to create both clients and pages. It's not designed to replace the web, but as an adjunct to it. It also makes it much easier to host your own site. As the project points out, it's "heavier than gopher... lighter than the web, [and] will not replace either."

Friday Links

Jared Moffat, a campaign manager for the Marijuana Policy Project, said a state’s market usually takes six to 12 months to stabilize after recreational cannabis becomes legal. One reason marijuana markets are unstable is that possessing and distributing the drug remain illegal under federal law, so moving products across state lines is not an option for dealing with a shortage. Everything that is sold in a state must be grown in that state.

More than four-in-10 U.S. residents live in a county that was struck by climate-related extreme weather last year, while more than 80% experienced a heat wave, according to a new report.

A few days ago, Mozilla Foundation invited netizens on Twitter to send in cryptocurrency donations via a new payment service provider.This move by the Firefox browser maker rapidly drew criticism, including that from Jamie Zawinski – who named the Mozilla project and was one of the original Netscape developers.

Mozilla has accepted crypto-coin donations for years, perhaps as part of its long-ongoing efforts to alienate its own users: it's only the payment provider that changed lately, it seems.

There really is research showing that there is no significant difference between various outcomes of online learning and on campus learning.

“We’ll gift each of you $10,000 in cash,” he said, looking at the camera. “You heard me right.”

They were told to expect a direct deposit the next day or pick up a check in person. Hildreth, an expert in infectious diseases who helped lead Nashville’s pandemic response, explained that this gift with no strings attached was money from the CARES Act, a major covid-19 relief law passed by Congress in 2020. He asked only that they be “good stewards” of the windfall.

Andreas Nelson fell silent, he recalled later. He went to his banking app and stared in disbelief. “$10,000 was sitting just in my bank account. It was astonishing,” he said. “I was literally lost for words.”

The Chicago native is finishing a master’s degree in health and science at Meharry with hopes of entering its dental school. The average student loan debt in the program totals more than $280,000. So, undoubtedly, 10 grand won’t make much of a dent in the debt.

But the money in his pocket eases his top concern of making rent each month. Nelson said it feels as though he’s being treated like an adult, allowing him to decide what his greatest needs are in getting through school.

Since you left me, Ondine, all the things my body once did by itself, it does now only by special order. […] I have to supervise five senses, two hundred bones, a thousand muscles. A single moment of inattention, and I forget to breathe. He died, they will say, because it was a nuisance to breathe.

Almost 80% of people in the lowest income category,  report having gotten at least one shot—51% have gotten two and 22% have gotten three. This is the lowest of any income category, and the share rises as you go up the income ladder. It tops off at 95% who’ve gotten at least one shot among the $200,000+ set.

By the way, racial gaps have largely disappeared; 82% of blacks and 84% of whites have been vaccinated.

Friday Links

There are certain things that people say that sound so true that others repeat them credulously without feeling the need to cite evidence. Two covid-era favorites: everybody’s working from home (WFH). And people have decamped en masse for the hinterlands, thanks to WFH. Neither is really true.

I wrote about the slim WFH numbers in September. In July, which was the most recent month available then, 13.2% of the employed were teleworking, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ favored term. In October, that had fallen to 11.6% (graph below). Their ranks were still dominated by highly credentialed professional and managerial workers. The miserably paid couriers who brought (and still bring) them food and other essentials were most certainly not working from home, though they easily fall out of some people’s conception of “everybody.”

Despite these surveys finding what should be obvious to anyone with an operating brain cell, that many hourly workers want more pay and/or better conditions (as in more realistic job loads and pacing), employers think the answer lies in finding more desperate prospects...

TikTok also uses shared URLs to establish personal network connections and suggest accounts users can follow. Yet another violation of users’ trust by a big social media company that will have virtually no consequences for it or the managers who decided to make this change.

This train had no tracks; it was designed to run on carpet or other flooring. It leaked a lot, hence the name. (And hence also its alternative description, the piddler.) The train had no steering mechanism, so if it hit something and fell over… well, it would spread burning methanol all over the floor.

I have made numerous inquiries to determine who has jurisdiction over adverse coverage decisions by Medicare Advantage plans, including to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. No responses!

My warning to those turning 65 is “caveat emptor.” Unfortunately, the public is not provided with the comprehensive information they need to make informed choices.

Friday Links

A surcharge is added on top of a ride fare if a passenger takes longer than two minutes to enter a vehicle after it arrives. Uber added wait time fees in some US cities in 2016 before expanding the policy across the country.

These fees, however, discriminate against people with mobility or visibility issues, federal prosecutors argue.

To David Graeber, it was a matter of plain fact that things did not have to be the way they were. Graeber was an anthropologist, which meant it was his job to study other ways of living. “I’m interested in anthropology because I’m interested in human possibilities,” he once explained. Graeber was also an anarchist, “and in a way,” he went on, “there’s always been an affinity between anthropology and anarchism, simply because anthropologists know that a society without a state is possible. There’s been plenty of them.” A better world was not assured, but it was possible — and anyway, as Graeber put it in Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, “since one cannot know a radically better world is not possible, are we not betraying everyone by insisting on continuing to justify and reproduce the mess we have today?”

Eastern Gateway Community College spent the past few years riding a tidal wave of enrollment growth, but its rapid rise has now put the college’s accreditation at risk.

Richard Kronick, a former federal health policy researcher and a professor at the University of California-San Diego, said his analysis of newly released Medicare Advantage billing data estimates that Medicare overpaid the private health plans by more than $106 billion from 2010 through 2019 because of the way the private plans charge for sicker patients.

Kronick called the growth in Medicare Advantage costs a “systemic problem across the industry,” which CMS has failed to rein in. He said some plans saw “eye-popping” revenue gains, while others had more modest increases. Giant insurer UnitedHealthcare, which in 2019 had about 6 million Medicare Advantage members, received excess payments of some $6 billion, according to Kronick. The company had no comment.

In other words, does long-COVID occur because people survived a really bad illness? After all, studies from the before times show that 2/3rds of people who survive an ICU stay have persistent symptoms. But is COVID uniquely bad – uniquely harmful to a variety of organ systems, out of proportion to severity of illness?

In the early 20th century, millions of chickens wore rose-coloured eyeglasses so they wouldn’t turn into cannibals.

Several strategies WHO endorsed — educating people about ageism, fostering intergenerational contacts, and changing policies and laws to promote age equity — are being tried in the United States. But a greater sense of urgency is needed in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s shocking death toll, including more than 500,000 older Americans, experts suggest.

In October, a group of experts from the U.S., Canada, India, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom called for old age to be removed as one of the causes and symptoms of disease in the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases, a global resource used to standardize health data worldwide.

Aging is a normal process, and equating old age with disease “is potentially detrimental,” the experts wrote in The Lancet. Doing so could result in inadequate clinical evaluation and care and an increase in “societal marginalisation and discrimination” against older adults, they warn.

Rules such as 'cause no harm to humans' can't be set if we don't understand the kind of scenarios that an AI is going to come up with, suggest the authors of the 2021 paper. Once a computer system is working on a level above the scope of our programmers, we can no longer set limits.

Friday Links

One of the most interesting things about computers is the way they hold a mirror up to us, a mirror that reflects not nature but our conception of nature. Attempts to create artificial intelligence force us to grapple with questions about our own natural intelligence — what it is, where it comes from, what its limits are. Programs for natural language processing raise hard questions about the origins and character of natural language. And in our attempts to create virtual worlds with virtual inhabitants — the metaverse, for instance — we confront profound questions about our being: What is a world? What does it mean to be in a world? What’s the relationship of mind and body? As Michael Heim wrote in his 1991 essay “The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace,” collected in the book Cyberspace: First Steps, “cyberspace is a metaphysical laboratory, a tool for examining our very sense of reality.”

Ken Adam, the set designer for many of the early films, paralleled Bond’s prewar traditionalism with an affinity for classical architecture. The British intelligence agency where Bond works is usually housed in a classical building. Likewise, Bond’s apartment, of which we catch a glimpse in Dr. No, is located in a Georgian-style building. The architecture that Bond inhabits resembles a kind of self-assured, institutional power, comparable to the status of the British before WWII.

Over 60% of all jobs in the U.S. typically require a high school education or less and pay accordingly. And for at least several decades, data from the New York Federal Reserve has shown what all college faculty and many parents and workers have long known: A large minority of bachelor’s degree holders are consistently underemployed, working in jobs requiring less formal education than they received. The educational attainment levels of the population, which are at historic highs, far exceed what the labor market requires. This is the real economy.

The format of this announcement is interesting. It tries desperately to strike a positive tone, with several paragraphs citing specific examples of the benefits of facial recognition and only gesturing to the potential for harm and abuse. I am glad Facebook sees so many great uses for it; I see them, too. But I wish the company were anywhere near as specific about the acknowledgements of harm. As it is presented, it looks defensive.

These presentations had the familiar vibe of an overly-ambitious video game reveal.

Facebook may be entirely invested in these efforts, but we have not yet come to terms with what the company represents today. It can parade its research projects and renderings all it wants, but the fact of the matter is that it is a company that currently makes the de facto communications infrastructure for much of the world, and frequently does a pretty poor job of it. Is this really the figurehead we want for the future of personal computing? Is this a company that we trust?

If you are like me, you may be thinking that it is sort of weird that this advertising company thinks it can create the mixed-reality future in software, hardware, and developer tools.

Let me start off by saying that MMORPGs are not typically good games....While many other kinds of games could be said to be based around "go here and kill things", the MMO needs to do it in a flatly consistent way due to the online shared world – hundreds of players running around the same sort of things – so they cannot be presented in a particularly interesting way outside of some flavour text.

Stiles argues that “the now-familiar trope of the mad scientist…traces its roots to the clinical association between genius and insanity that developed in the mid-nineteenth century.” In the early 1800s, the Romantics saw the condition as a “mystical phenomenon beyond the reach of scientific investigation.” The Victorians took a more detached and critical approach. “Rather than glorifying creative powers, Victorians pathologized genius and upheld the mediocre man as an evolutionary ideal,” Stiles writes. “All aberrations from the norm could be seen as pathological, including extreme intelligence.”

Friday Links

The inexpensive antidepressant fluvoxamine reduced the need for a long emergency department (ED) observation or a hospital stay among high-risk, symptomatic COVID-19 outpatients treated within 7 days of symptom onset as much as 30% to 65%, finds a Brazilian platform clinical trial yesterday in The Lancet Global Health.

Here are a few reasons why emailing during the weekend might be bad. First, the sender might think they are not imposing any expectations on the receiver, but that might not be how the receiver experiences it. In that case, they are infringing on the private time of their co-worker. Second, if the sender has some sort of power over the receiver (being their boss, supervisor, etc.), then this might even be more so. Third, if people regularly email during the weekend, they are effectively signaling/telling that one can’t do this job without working at least part of the weekend, and it might be problematic to convey that message to those who aspire having such a job in the future (e.g. PhDs or postdocs receiving messages from professors during the weekend), since it might put off those who want to have healthy/balanced lives to stay in that sector. Finally, perhaps an argument could be made that it is a collective protection/self-binding strategy to not send emails during the weekend in an attempt to contain the working week to Monday to Friday. But I am not sure that argument works, give that there are so many other work related things we can do and do do during the weekend.

It is terrible that four-year institutions are advocating against the passage of an inititiative that would benefit so many low-income students. 

Is it worse that our current system of higher education makes lobbying against free community college an entirely rational, perhaps even necessary act for the sake of those individual institutions.

One of the reasons I advocate for free public higher ed period – two and four-year institutions – is because of this exact scenario. It is difficult to get people to do the “right” thing when it may not be in their immediate interests.

Disability is the largest minority group in the U.S. and is a community that anyone can join at any time. Its civil rights movement coincided and collaborated with the Black Panthers, The United Farm Workers of America, and the Butterfly Brigade. Disability and diversity, experts say, go hand in hand.

“We have so many students passionate about social justice, yet when I mention disability as social justice work, it seems like a surprise sometimes,” she said. “We have to get people engaged to make sure disability is a part of their daily diversity conversations.”

Some nine schools in North Ayrshire, which is a Scottish authority that includes the Isle of Arran, were scheduled to start processing payments for school meals via facial scanning technology.

This was intended to speed up the delivery of lunches from an average of 25 seconds to five, and potentially reduce COVID-19 infections compared to card payments and fingerprint scanners.

However, campaigners told The Reg last week that using facial recognition in canteens was the wrong solution given the highly sensitive and personal nature of the data, which was to be stored on school servers.

A new article, appearing in PLOS One shows us what is, I think, an equally plausible reason some people choose not to get vaccinated. It’s not that they overestimate the risk of vaccination, they underestimate the risk of COVID. Or, as the authors put it, they feel invincible.

Friday Links

More experience and equipment are required to create a cup of Cometeer coffee than any other halfway plausible cup of coffee, literally ever. (You can tell the MIT, Apple, and Tesla scientists and Princeton-educated coffee-masters did a good job of brewing your coffee with proprietary machinery in Gloucester, Mass., flash-freezing it in liquid nitrogen, packing it in dry ice, and shipping it to your home for you to store in your freezer, because it tastes like you spent five minutes making it yourself using techniques that predate the advent of antibiotics.)

The famous legal phrase caveat emptor (“let the buyer beware”) entered common law because of a 17th century dispute over a magic bezoar stone.

There’s a lot of creepy consumerism here. Beyond the details that come out in McMillan Cottom’s description, the online tour of the house reveals stylized décor that romanticizes a simpler time when one could easily travel to distant vacation destinations with children. The kids’ room includes a climbing rope so homeowners will be well-prepared to exercise their children the next time public parks close and kids without backyards or indoor climbing equipment are again relegated to streets and sidewalks and parking lots for their outdoor recreation. These houses are clearly marketed to people who have the means (or hope for the means) to get as much of their skin out of the future pandemic game as possible.

It is hard to know who to sympathize less with: the person who claimed to be a certified psychic who could remove an ex-girlfriend curse (among the most powerful curses known to man) for just $5,100, or the person who claims he believed that person and gave her money to uncurse him. Ideally, no one would win this case. Unfortunately (unless it settles), someone probably will.

If such a high rate of resignations were occurring at a time when jobs were plentiful, it might be seen as a sign of a booming economy where workers have their pick of offers. But the same labor report showed that job openings have also declined, suggesting that something else is going on. A new Harris Poll of people with employment found that more than half of workers want to leave their jobs. Many cite uncaring employers and a lack of scheduling flexibility as reasons for wanting to quit. In other words, millions of American workers have simply had enough.

Friday Links

Nicknamed LANtenna, Guri's technique is an academic proof of concept and not a fully fledged attack that could be deployed today. Nonetheless, the research shows that poorly shielded cables have the potential to leak information which sysadmins may have believed were secure or otherwise air-gapped from the outside world.

Sometimes, it makes sense to move first and wait for laws and policies to catch up. Facial recognition is not one of those times. And, to make matters worse, policymakers have barely gotten started in many jurisdictions. We are accelerating toward catastrophe and Clearview is leading the way.

Users will be prompted with a dialog inviting them to "allow suggestions" before the feature is enabled. The dialog is an example of a dark pattern, with three options, one highlighted to encourage a reflex click, one in discouraging grey for customising settings, and sneaked in at top right, a small "Not now" link.

Firefox and the work of Mozilla is important to the web community since it is an independent browser with its own engine, unlike most others which use the Google-sponsored Chromium engine. These sponsored links sit uncomfortably with Mozilla's claim to be privacy advocates – yet like many other open-source companies, Mozilla is in the position where it cannot charge directly for its products so looks for other means of monetising them. Much of its income comes from Google, which pays to be the default search engine in Firefox.

But the truth is more complicated than that. In reality, herd immunity is really a local phenomenon. If the level of immunity in your local social group is very high, transmission rates within that group are very low. It’s not perfect, of course – we live in an interconnected world, but embracing the idea of local herd immunity may help us more appropriately figure out where life can return to normal most quickly.

Now, there is a fairly glaring limitation in this analysis – one that I was shocked to see was not addressed in the paper, which is otherwise really nicely analyzed. How do we know the non-immunized family member is really non-immunized? The authors define immunization based on vaccination or a positive PCR test for COVID, but I have to imagine that some family members may have been infected but not tested – either because they were asymptomatic or because it was obvious what they had. That prior infection could certainly protect them from future infection – so maybe what we’re seeing here is just misclassification of susceptibles.

Millions of unfilled job openings, workers quitting en masse, soaring wages (at least in some sectors)—wild time in the job market. Here are some graphs to make the point.

Facebook’s products are more than just a social network for hundreds of millions of people globally. Beyond being communication tools, the company’s platforms are e-commerce resources, storefronts, and health and emergency aids. In some regions, Facebook is the internet. Seven users from around the world described the impact of the seven-hour shortage to Rest of World, and a user from Nigeria said, “It’s painful.” 

Facebook’s reach and dominance in much of the world is largely by design. As part of its strategy for exponential growth, the company has made internet access in the Global South — through the use of Facebook products — a priority.

In 2015, the company launched Free Basics, which gave users access to Facebook products for free or reduced their cost through partnerships with telecommunications companies. The program expanded and, in 2020, went on to include Discover, which allows users to access a text-only version of Facebook.

One problem with figuring out what symptoms are seen in COVID, is that most studies look at people who test positive for COVID, and most people get tested when they have symptoms. This means certain symptoms might become an almost self-fulfilling prophecy. The only way around this is to do random, population-based screening for COVID, and that is exactly what this paper, appearing in PLOS Medicine does.

Sounds like they're really pushing for it to stay a restaurant. Encouraging.

The bidding process will score proposals based on eight categories worth 15 points each, with points awarded based on how "advantageous" the proposal is in that area. For example, under the opening "Use of Diner" category, four points or less will go toward proposals with "any private use." Publicly accessible uses not tied to a diner would be worth five to nine points, and only those proposing an actual diner or other restaurant use would land between 10 and 15 points. Another category awards five to nine points for anything within 10 miles of Salem and the highest allotment of points if the diner is "located within Salem, MA city limits.""Ideally, we'd like to have the diner remain in Salem. Ideally, we'd like it to be an operating eatery," Collucci said. "We know people really have an affinity for the diner and so many great memories."

In the 1940s, Ikeler writes, many sales clerks received extensive training to provide personalized service, sometimes in formal schools such as the New York University School of Retailing. While employees were closely monitored, they could choose how to engage customers and try to make a sale.

Friday Links

Generally, I think exhortations to people to get out of their bubble and to speak across divides are a waste of breath. But put people in different circumstances with others with whom they disagree and they will find ways to rub along and communicate, with a mix of challenge and restraint.

Zuckerberg’s letter is behind Facebook’s login wall; since I do not have an account, I cannot access it. Thankfully, the Verge has reproduced it in full for those of us who think that the public statements of the CEO of a major company should be, you know, public

On September 16, the Journal published an analysis of moderation-related documents indicating that the company prioritizes growth and user retention, and is reluctant to remove users.

One of the hardest parts of recovering from workaholism is having colleagues who still are active workaholics, constantly go above and beyond, and have very few boundaries. I don’t worry much about how my performance looks compared to theirs (though I used to), but I sometimes feel like I’m abandoning them.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been thinking about something I call slow librarianship. It was in response to the realizations I had about my workaholism and the ideas I explored around ambition, striving, productivity, self-optimization, and achievement culture on this blog two years ago. It felt like the answer to all this was to slow down, to notice and reflect, to focus more on being true to our values than innovating, to build relationships, to really listen (to our communities our colleagues, and ourselves), and to be in solidarity with others.

In American society, we still have a mind-set that we hold the power to forgive people for their poverty, as if the poor created the conditions in which they were born and live. Until we change our beliefs about the nature of poverty, we will end up in circular arguments about whether someone deserves $10,000, $50,000 or whatever in debt relief.

When biologists approach general questions about life, development and disease, they study particular organisms, such as mice, fruit flies or specific viruses.

In my new book Model Cases: On Canonical Research Objects and Sites (Chicago University Press, 2021), I argue that scholars in the social sciences and humanities also draw on some cases more than others. The selection of research objects is influenced by a range of ideological but also by mundane factors. Eurocentrism and historicist ideas about development over time, convenience, schemas in the general population and schemas particular to specific scholarly communities all sponsor some objects over others.

Friday Links

“For many less-educated Americans, the economy and society are no longer providing the basis for a good life. Concurrently, all-cause mortality in the U.S. is diverging by education — falling for the college-educated and rising for those without a degree — something not seen in other rich countries.”

Community and technical colleges educate more people per year than apprenticeship programs, coding boot camps and federal job training programs combined, noted Tamar Jacoby, president of Opportunity America and author of the report. Nonetheless, many people underestimate the value of these institutions.

As four key insights in this analysis will later show, teacher, parent, and student conversations on social media have been largely siloed within their individual groups and focused on different aspects of the education system. However, the pandemic—and the far-reaching issues generated by it, such as an exam-grading controversy and students’ mental health—represent important moments when the three groups united in joint conversations around education, ripening the possibility for change.

Social listening is an innovative and relatively new research method for gathering and making sense of large amounts of social media data. We were particularly intrigued by the promise of social media data scraping for targeting the thoughts and sentiments of the millions of citizens whose voices simply cannot make it into even the most ambitious of surveys.

In 1927-1928, a large research study was undertaken by the Payne Fund, an educational foundation. Superintendents and principals in hundreds of American schools were surveyed; they were asked their views on the value and importance of educational broadcasting. The responses were so positive that it inspired the Ohio Department of Education, along with Ohio State University, to make educational broadcasts more widely available. The Ohio legislature allocated $20,000 for the project, and the Ohio School of the Air was born; it debuted on January 7, 1929, operating four days a week, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. By the end of 1929, more than 230 Ohio communities had installed radios in their schools so that students could hear the daily programs, broadcast from Ohio State’s WEAO in Columbus and powerful Cincinnati commercial station WLW.

Having a budget enabled the Ohio School of the Air to produce top-quality programs that were interesting for students, and easy for teachers to build discussions around—there were even sample lesson plans and suggested readings provided. It also meant being able to hire talented professionals to read poetry or perform Shakespearean plays, native speakers to give French lessons, and experienced musicians for music appreciation (a major plus for schools too small to have their own orchestras or glee clubs). And students were not just passive listeners: the lessons often included talks by well-known experts, like aviators, or doctors, or scientists, or journalists, or even the governor, who answered questions the students had asked.

But what Facebook has built, according to Horwitz, is not a system to protect the integrity and security of Facebook users with a large audience. It is an over-broad attempt to ward off what employees call “PR fires” — a side effect of which being that the users with the biggest megaphones are given another channel by which to spread whatever information they choose with little consequence.

When we do not believe we will need information later, we do not recall it at the same rate as when we do believe we’ll need it.Because the internet is readily available, we may not feel we need to encode the information. When we need the answer, we will look it up.

Friday Links

“The key is the data that I have in my possession. Data is not clean of the sins of the past.”

Earlier in the pandemic, fully virtual students were paired with teachers at their home schools who guided them through a full day of classes — from math to gym — often alongside their pre-pandemic classmates.

But this year, after the state prohibited that kind of remote learning, San Diego launched a standalone virtual academy with its own virtual teachers. Students get some live instruction and teacher check-ins, then spend the rest of the time doing work on their own.

Another change? The level of interest. Last year, 44% of students ended the year online. But so far, less than 1% have chosen the virtual academy, though the district is still working through applications.

“Our projections consistently foresee a positive future for wild cacao in Peru as the current suitable area is expected to largely remain suitable and to further expand in the future,” explain Ceccarelli and her colleagues.

The research team cautions that despite the positive findings, chocolate lovers shouldn’t celebrate too soon. Even if wild cacao does fare well in the forests of a warmer world, that does not mean that it would grow well enough under cultivation to replace domestic cocoa as a cash crop. And their model didn’t try to incorporate other possible knock-on effects of a changing climate, such as increasing pests and disease.

These concerns about credibility are overblown. Credibility is whether others think you mean what you say in a given situation. It is context-specific; because circumstances can vary widely, credibility is judged on a case-by-case basis. How a state has behaved in the past is an important component of its credibility, but it is not the only one. The Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan will affect these calculations the next time the United States commits to an extraordinarily costly venture in a place not vital to the country’s core security interests, but it is unlikely to sabotage U.S. credibility writ large.

Credibility is different from reputation, however. If credibility is whether others think your deeds will match your words, reputation is what others think of you in the first place. On this count, the consequences of the U.S. withdrawal will likely be considerably greater. The pullout has been messy and chaotic: the Taliban took control of Afghanistan more quickly than the Biden administration had publicly predicted, and members of a regional branch of the Islamic State (or ISIS) launched a deadly bomb attack at the Kabul airport as Afghan and foreign citizens attempted to evacuate the country.

Reputations are, in essence, beliefs—they exist only in the minds of others. The formation and maintenance of reputations therefore has an important psychological component, and the psychological evidence is relatively clear that observers pay attention to past actions when predicting future behavior. Experimental studies I conducted with Jonathan Renshon and Keren Yarhi-Milo on both members of the public and elite decision-makers found that when asked to assess a country’s resolve in a foreign policy crisis, observers consistently focus on behavior in previous disputes, even when presented with countervailing information about capabilities and interests. The question is not simply whether allies and adversaries will doubt U.S. resolve because Washington backed down from a 20-year stabilization effort in Afghanistan. It is whether their existing doubts will grow stronger than they would have had the United States continued fighting.

Americans are exhausted by educational disruption. That's the message of a new survey by the journal Education Next. According to their poll, support for virtually every proposed innovation has dropped since 2019 (a few items were flat). That includes both highly popular measures, such as annual testing, and more controversial policies, including charter schools. 

Prior to the 1960s and 1970s, writes Ensmenger, computer programming was thought of as a “routine and mechanical” activity, which resulted in the field becoming largely feminized. The work wasn’t particularly glamorous; “coders” were “low-status, largely invisible.” They were only supposed to implement the plans sketched out by male “planners.” Ensmenger quotes one female programmer, who recalled, “It never occurred to any of us that computer programming would eventually become something that was thought of as a men’s field.”

Google readily (and ironically) admits that such ubiquitous web tracking is out of hand and has resulted in “an erosion of trust... [where] 72% of people feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or others, and 81% say the potential risks from data collection outweigh the benefits.”

“Research has shown that up to 52 companies can theoretically observe up to 91% of the average user’s web browsing history,” a senior Chrome engineer told a recent Internet Engineering Task Force call, “and 600 companies can observe at least 50%.”

Friday Links

The idea that education acts as a Matthew Effect that disproportionately benefits those who start with most is an uncomfortable but well-understood phenomenon. Everything we do in schools either widens the advantage gap between the most privileged and least privileged students, or narrows it. This is, I think, a real dichotomy: anything that, on balance, appears net neutral is in fact acting to keep the gap a yawning chasm of inequity.

Leaving a sock on the ground is a manifestation of a concept from physics you may have heard of: entropy. Entropy is a measure of how much energy is lost in a system. If a system loses too much energy, it will disintegrate into chaos. It takes only a little bit of energy to pick up one sock. But if you don’t take care of your yard, let pipes stay clogged and never fix electrical problems, it all adds up to a chaotic home that would take a lot of energy to fix. And that chaos will leach away your time and ability to accomplish other things.

ACP President Jacqueline Fincher, MD, MACP, says the new guidance reflects several years' worth of data that suggest that shorter antibiotic courses for these infections are just as effective as longer courses, and the growing recognition that overly long prescriptions are among the factors driving unnecessary antibiotic use and promoting antibiotic resistance."These are common infections that physicians and other clinicians treat every day," Fincher told CIDRAP News. "This is the low-hanging fruit that we can go ahead and grab and do something about while we look into other things."

Experts warn we are about to enter a new period of flux as the school year ends and more teachers consider whether to leave after another year of heightened stress. That could lead to a small but meaningful uptick in teachers leaving their schools.

“If the economy accelerates with all the government spending, as I anticipate it will, outside-of-teaching opportunities are going to look pretty good, so we may well face some staffing challenges,” said Dan Goldhaber, a leading researcher on teacher quality issues at the University of Washington. But, he emphasized, such challenges likely won’t be felt across the board, but rather in subjects like special education and math and science, as well as in schools with more low-income students and more students of color.

Actual incidents of intentional smallpox infection “may have occurred more frequently than scholars have previously acknowledged.”

Friday Links

For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

Judged by the standard of Arrow’s ideal of complete state-contingent markets, we’ve seen astoundingly little useful financial innovation during my long lifetime.

Quakers – the Religious Society of Friends – are famously nonviolent. One wartime tactic bears their name, not because they created it but because it bears the same hallmarks of nonviolence: the quaker guns.

This is how it typically worked: find a log that was roughly the shape and size of an artillery gun barrel, paint it black, and maybe carve the end a bit so it looks like a muzzle. Prop it up, point it at your enemy, and trust them to come to the wrong conclusion.

Despite the theory’s intuitive appeal, standards-based reform does not work very well in reality. One key reason is that coordinating key aspects of education at the top of the system hamstrings discretion at the bottom. The illusion of a coherent, well-coordinated system is gained at the expense of teachers’ flexibility in tailoring instruction to serve their students. Classrooms are teeming with variation.

The media narratives Americans consume may shape their opinions about whether the events of January 6 constitute terrorism, to a startling degree.

It is estimated that only 10% of academic titles are available for university libraries to purchase as digital copies for their students, and the books which are available, are frequently placed under restrictive licensing, made available only in bundles, and sold to libraries at incredibly high costs for single user or one-year access. As a result, academic librarians have been left with no choice but to tell staff and students that it is not possible to acquire key texts, and lecturers have had to re-design their reading lists around what is available.

I think what he's saying is digital art is the Platonic ideal of a Veblen good.

But “ownership” of crypto art confers no actual rights, other than being able to say that you own the work. You don’t own the copyright, you don’t get a physical print, and anyone can look at the image on the web. There is merely a record in a public database saying that you own the work – really, it says you own the work at a specific URL.

“We the people” have gotten a bad reputation in the annals of democratic theory. Thinkers from Alexander Hamilton to Alexis de Tocqueville have identified an excess of democracy as the greatest threat to U.S. democracy. As recently as 2019, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt fretted about “an overreliance on the ‘will of the people’”—a Hamilton phrase—in their bestseller, How Democracies Die.

“It’s quite simple, really: Daylight Saving Time is a hoax perpetrated by the liberal elite as a form of mind control and time manipulation in order to make us all complacent and ready to be sold into the sex trade,” Perkins explained. “It didn’t exist until 1992, when it was instituted by perverted infidel Bill Clinton so that he and his satanic cabal could have a masked satanic ceremony on the White House lawn — they use TV commercials with subliminal messaging to lull the populace into a deep sleep for 60 minutes while they douse each other in pig’s blood and engage in extramarital sex. Like I said, pretty obvious.”

(End note: the only honest way I’ve heard to increase your winnings in the lottery is this: pick numbers higher than 31. This won’t increase your chances of winning, but it may just increase the amount you win if you do. Many people use their birthdays when choosing numbers, so when the numbers 1 to 31 come up there may be more winners. More winners means a smaller share of the prize to each one. If you win with numbers above 31, you may just be sharing the prize with fewer people – and so winning more money. I have no idea if this technique actually works in practice because I don’t buy lottery tickets, but it’s a neat idea, and you probably won’t go to jail for trying it.)

This afternoon, I was updating the streaming apps on my 2020 LG CX OLED TV, something I do from time to time, but today was different. Out of nowhere, I saw (and heard) an ad for Ace Hardware start playing in the lower-left corner. It autoplayed with sound without any action on my part.

“It is difficult to envision an investment in K-12 education with a higher ceiling on its potential return than improving school leadership,” the report’s authors say.

Saturday Links

Debates about whether to bar anticapitalist views from the classroom are not new. British lawmakers have considered similar bans on numerous occasions since the 1917 Russian revolution. But previous British governments refused to forbid materials from radical groups – including communists – from British classrooms, even at the height of the cold war.

Meanwhile in the US, legislation barring the teaching of “subversive” doctrines proliferated. States and towns demanded loyalty oaths from teachers and required that schools teach the “American way” of “free enterprise”. By the early 1950s, school curricula had become a central focus of anticommunist crusaders such as Senator Joseph McCarthy. Seemingly anodyne elementary-school stories such as Robin Hood were held up as dangerous “communist” indoctrination in “robbing the rich to give to the poor”.

I think it is also critically important to situate the study of digital curation so that it isn’t simply an esoteric matter that’s only relevant for cultural heritage organizations. Digital curation is set of concerns and practices that are present in students’ every day lives, and can be found all throughout society–and these practices have real, social and political consequences.

“The first person to claim extended interaction with aliens said that they were friendly, helpful, even noble beings,” writes Bader. In 1952, one George Adamski ran into Orthon, a five-feet-six-inch humanoid in a brown jumpsuit who hailed from Venus. Orthon was the first in a series of encounters with aliens who “resembled earthlings in every way,” writes Bader. “The beings spoke near-perfect English… They managed to hold down jobs [on Earth] by visiting their home planets only during work holidays.” Throughout the 1950s, many contactees referred to aliens as their peaceful “Space Brothers.”

Patent offices cannot make the connections to traditional knowledge because so much of it is either untranslated or just not easily accessible. As a result, it’s much more likely to be overlooked when examining patents. The Indian government attempted to solve this problem in a very pragmatic way: collect, translate, and make available every written account of traditional knowledge that they could find.

The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is a repository of hundreds of books of traditional Indian medicine, compiled, scanned, and translated. In all, it runs to 34 million pages. Now, every time someone tries to patent some organic compound from the Indian subcontinent, patent examiners can look it up in the library and see whether it is being co-opted.

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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