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Daily Archives: November 30, 2020

At every turn the distortion of data has been central to the U.S. government’s disastrous response to the coronavirus

Highline – HuffPo – “This is an accounting of the damage…The administration has failed on so many different fronts in its handling of the coronavirus, creating the overall impression of sheer mayhem. But there is a common thread that runs through these government malfunctions. Precise, transparent data is crucial in the fight against a pandemic—yet through a combination of ineptness and active manipulation, the government has depleted and corrupted the key statistics that public health officials rely on to protect us….One of the administration’s most consequential failures was that it didn’t establish uniform reporting standards for states and counties. All the numbers from local agencies were just tipped into a mass of detail that was “inconsistent, incomplete, and inaccessible,” according to a report published by the American Public Health Association, the Johns Hopkins Center, and Resolve to Save Lives, a nonprofit led by a former CDC director. But Trump also urged authorities to slow down coronavirus testing. “Instead of 25 million tests, let’s say we did 10 million tests,” he told CBN News. “We’d look like we were doing much better because we’d have far fewer cases. You understand that.” [h/t Barclay Walsh]

…The erosion of data across the federal government is particularly insidious because it’s relatively invisible to the public at large. Often, the only people who know the value of these sets of numbers are those who work with them daily. The life-and-death implications of data can be highly technical and hard to convey. But looking at the kinds of data being erased, a clear narrative of political intent emerges….”

How to watch out for scams as a coronavirus vaccine nears

ICE pivots to combat COVID-19 vaccine fraud with launch of Operation Stolen Promise 2.0 – via AP: “Homeland Security Investigations officials are preparing for a crush of new scams when the coronavirus vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could come in a few weeks. A few things to keep in… Continue Reading

The algorithms are watching us, but who is watching the algorithms?

ZDNet – “A two-year investigation into the private and public use of AI systems shows that more oversight is needed, particularly in government services like policing. Empowering algorithms to make potentially life-changing decisions about citizens still comes with significant risk of unfair discrimination, according to a new report published by the UK’s Center for Data… Continue Reading

One person in the room with you has COVID-19. Here’s how long it takes to get infected

Fast Company – “Keep six feet of distance. Issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adopted by many businesses, it’s the guideline that most of us have lived by during COVID-19. But as the climate has turned cold and some of us have moved indoors, John Bush, a professor of applied mathematics… Continue Reading

Federal system for tracking hospital beds and COVID-19 patients provides questionable data

Science Magazine: “Across the United States, COVID-19 wards like this one at University of Wisconsin Health in Madison are filling up fast, but federal data on their patient numbers and available beds are suspect, which could hinder getting personal protective equipment, other supplies, or medicines to where they are needed most…HHS Protect’s problems are a national issue,… Continue Reading

These are the charities where your money will do the most good

Vox: “Giving to charity is great, not just for the recipients but for the givers, too. But it can be intimidating to know how to pick the best charity, especially when there are thousands of worthy causes to choose from, and especially when the world’s in the midst of a massive pandemic and economic calamity… Continue Reading

‘It Was Terrifying.’ Law Dean on the Mend From COVID-19 – “Lyrissa Lidsky, dean of the University of Missouri School of Law, knew something wasn’t right when she came home two weeks ago so exhausted that she fell asleep in her work clothes and slumbered through the night. That marked the start of a two-week bout with COVID-19 where she vacillated between feeling well… Continue Reading