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Daily Archives: June 14, 2020

MIT News – Which businesses should be open?

In light of Covid-19, an MIT study looks at tradeoffs between economic value and public health, across different types of retail:”A new study by MIT researchers uses a variety of data on consumer and business activity to tackle that question, measuring 26 types of businesses by both their usefulness and risk. Vital forms of commerce that are relatively uncrowded fare the best in the study; less significant types of businesses that generate crowds perform worse. The results can help inform the policy decisions of government officials during the ongoing pandemic. As it happens, banks perform the best in the study, being economically significant and relatively uncrowded. “Banks have an outsize economic impact and tend to be bigger spaces that people visit only once in a while,” says Seth G. Benzell, a postdoc at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE) and co-author of a paper published Wednesday that outlines the study. Indeed, in the study, banks rank first in economic importance, out of the 26 business types, but just 14th in risk. By contrast, other business types create much more crowding while having far less economic importance. These include liquor and tobacco stores; sporting goods stores; cafes, juice bars, and dessert parlors; and gyms. All of those are in the bottom half of the study’s rankings of economic importance. At the same time, cafes, juice bars, and dessert parlors, taken together, rank third-highest out of the 26 business types in risk, while gyms are the fifth-riskiest according to the study’s metrics — which include cellphone location data revealing how crowded U.S. businesses get. “Policymakers have not been making clear explanations about how they are coming to their decisions,” says Avinash Collis PhD ’20, an MIT-trained economist and co-author of the new paper. “That’s why we wanted to provide a more data-driven policy guide.” And if the Covid-19 pandemic worsens again, the research can apply to shuttering businesses again.   “This is not only about which locations should reopen first,” says Christos Nicolaides PhD ’14, a digital fellow at IDE and study co-author. “You can also look at it from the perspective of which locations should close first, in another future wave of Covid-19.”

How to Clean Up Your Social Media Posts As Much as You Can

Wired – How to Clean Up Your Old Social Media Posts – “These tips will help you safely tidy up your Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts—or give your profile a fresh start.” Wired UK – “…First off–everything you do on Instagram is tracked. Almost every online service you use collects information about your actions. Every… Continue Reading

OpenAI’s Text Generator Is Going Commercial

Wired – “Last spring, artificial intelligence research institute OpenAI said it had made software so good at generating text—including fake news articles—that it was too dangerous to release. That line in the sand was soon erased when two recent master’s grads recreated the software and OpenAI released the original, saying awareness of the risks had… Continue Reading

CDC Finally Posts Guidelines for Activities as States Reopen

These guidelines were released on Friday, June 12, 2020. Yet around the country states and localities had previously ended restrictions on many activities, indoor and outdoor, as well as reopening of commerce – stores, restaurants, and other businesses. The CDC was far behind the curve in providing requisite federal guidelines prior to re-openings that have… Continue Reading

The Economist Democracy Index 2019

“The twelfth edition of the Democracy Index finds that the average global score has fallen from 5.48 in 2018, to 5.44. This is the worst average global score since The Economist Intelligence Unit first produced the Democracy Index in 2006. Driven by sharp regressions in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, four out of the five… Continue Reading

New Florida Community Coronavirus Dashboard posted independent of state control

Washington Post – “Tension built for days between Florida Department of Health supervisors and the department’s geographic information systems manager before officials showed her the door, she says, permanently pulling her off the coronavirus dashboard that she operated for weeks. Managers had wanted Rebekah Jones to make certain changes to the public-facing portal, she says.… Continue Reading

Building the world’s best pandemic and protest trackers

MIT Technology Review: “Avi Schiffmann, the brains behind the web’s most popular coronavirus tracking site, just launched a protest tracking site. How did he do it? The coronavirus pandemic and the protests sparked by the May 25 murder of George Floyd have been the defining events of 2020 so far, and in both cases one… Continue Reading

The Internet’s most important—and misunderstood—law, explained

Ars Technica – Section 230 is the legal foundation of social media, and it’s under attack.”…To understand Section 230, you have to understand how the law worked before Congress enacted it in 1996. At the time, the market for consumer online services was dominated by three companies: Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL. Along with access to… Continue Reading

COVID-19: Remote Voting Trends and the Election Infrastructure Subsector

CRS report via LC – COVID-19: Remote Voting Trends and the Election Infrastructure Subsector, June 10, 2020: “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the systems and assets used to administer elections as a critical infrastructure subsector in 2017. The federal elections policyframework—including infrastructure protection—has generally assumed in-person voting at official polling places as the… Continue Reading

Larger Businesses and COVID-19 – Financial Relief and Assistance Resources

CRS report via LC: Larger Businesses and COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources Updated June 11, 2020: “This CRS Insight presents selected resources and CRS products potentially relevant to medium and large businesses directly affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic seeking economic relief and assistance. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES)… Continue Reading

Libraries are needed more than ever

USA Today – But many aren’t sure how to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic – “…Just 37% of libraries plan to reopen by July, according to a recently released survey from the American Library Association. Nearly half of the nation’s libraries – 47% – do not have plans to reopen their doors to the public anytime soon,… Continue Reading