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Facebook is tilting the political playing field more than ever and it’s no accident

<p>As the US presidential election polling day draws close, it’s worth recapping what we know about how Facebook has been used to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834737/">influence election results</a>.</p> <p>The platform is optimised for boosting politically conservative voices calling for <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/10/26/facebook-algorithm-conservative-liberal-extremes/">fascism, separatism and xenophobia</a>. It’s also these voices that tend to generate <a href="https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/radical-ideas-social-media-algorithms/">the most clicks</a>.</p> <p>In recent years, Facebook has on several occasions been made to choose between keeping to its <a href="https://www.facebook.com/communitystandards/introduction">community standards</a> or taking a path that avoids the ire of conservatives. Too many times, it has chosen the latter.</p> <p>The result has been an onslaught of divisive rhetoric that continues to flood the platform and drive political polarisation in society.</p> <p><strong>How democracy can be subverted online</strong></p> <p>According to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/us/politics/russian-interference-trump-democrats.html">The New York Times</a>, earlier this year US intelligence officials warned Russia was interfering in the 2020 presidential campaign, with the goal of seeing President Donald Trump re-elected.</p> <p>This was corroborated by <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/new-evidence-shows-how-russias-election-interference-has-gotten-more">findings</a> from the US Brennan Centre for Justice. A research team led by journalism and communications professor Young Mie Kim identified a range of Facebook troll accounts deliberately sowing division “by targeting both the left and right, with posts to foment outrage, fear and hostility”.</p> <p>Most were linked to Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA), <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-sanctions/u-s-blacklists-individuals-entities-linked-to-leader-of-russias-ira-idUSKCN26E2HO">the company</a> also behind a 2016 US election influence campaign. Kim <a href="https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/new-evidence-shows-how-russias-election-interference-has-gotten-more">wrote</a> the troll accounts seemed to discourage certain people from voting, with a focus on swing states.</p> <p>This month, Facebook <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/06/technology/facebook-qanon-crackdown.html">announced</a> a ban (across both Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns) on groups and pages devoted to the far-right conspiracy group QAnon. It also <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-takes-down-network-tied-to-conservative-group-citing-fake-accounts-11602174088">removed</a> a network of fake accounts linked to a conservative US political youth group, for violating rules against “coordinated inauthentic behavior”.</p> <p>However, despite Facebook’s <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/facebooks-latest-fix-for-fake-news-ask-users-what-they-trust/">repeated promises</a> to clamp down harder on such behaviour — and <a href="https://theconversation.com/facebook-is-removing-qanon-pages-and-groups-from-its-sites-but-critical-thinking-is-still-the-best-way-to-fight-conspiracy-theories-147668">occasional</a> efforts to actually do so — the company has been <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/samantha-power-facebook-reduce-spread-misinformation/2020/10/23/d54c1bda-1496-11eb-bc10-40b25382f1be_story.html">widely</a> <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2020/oct/14/facebook-greatest-source-of-covid-19-disinformation-journalists-say">criticised</a> for doing far too little to curb the spread of disinformation, misinformation and election meddling.</p> <p>According to a <a href="https://comprop.oii.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/93/2019/09/CyberTroop-Report19.pdf">University of Oxford study</a>, 70 countries (including Australia) practised either foreign or domestic election meddling in 2019. This was up from 48 in 2018 and 28 in 2017. The study said Facebook was “the platform of choice” for this.</p> <p>The Conversation approached Facebook for comment regarding the platform’s use by political actors to influence elections, including past US elections. A Facebook spokesperson said:</p> <p><em>We’ve hired experts, built teams with experience across different areas, and created new products, policies and partnerships to ensure we’re ready for the unique challenges of the US election.</em></p> <p><strong>When Facebook favoured one side</strong></p> <p>Facebook has drawn widespread criticism for its failure to remove posts that clearly violate its policies on hate speech, including <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/28/facebook-zuckerberg-trump-hate/">posts</a> by Trump himself.</p> <p>The company openly <a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2019/09/elections-and-political-speech/">exempts</a> politicians from its fact-checking program and knowingly hosts misleading content from politicians, under its “newsworthiness exception”.</p> <p>When Facebook tried to clamp down on misinformation in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential elections, <a href="https://www.bushcenter.org/people/joel-kaplan.html">ex-Republican staffer</a> turned Facebook executive Joel Kaplan argued doing so would disproportionately target conservatives, the Washington Post <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/20/facebook-republican-shift/">reported</a>.</p> <p>The Conversation asked Facebook whether Kaplan’s past political affiliations indicated a potential for conservative bias in his current role. The question wasn’t answered.</p> <p>Facebook’s board also now features a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/16/technology/peter-thiel-donald-j-trump.html">major Trump donor</a> and vocal supporter, Peter Thiel. Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has himself been accused of <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/21/business/media/facebook-donald-trump-mark-zuckerberg.html">getting “too close”</a> to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/22/surprised-about-mark-zuckerbergs-secret-meeting-with-trump-dont-be">Trump</a>.</p> <p>Moreover, when the US Federal Trade Commission investigated Facebook’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, it was <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/jul/12/facebook-fine-ftc-privacy-violations">Republican votes</a> that saved the company from facing antitrust litigation.</p> <p>Overall, Facebook’s model has shifted <a href="https://www.theverge.com/interface/2019/4/11/18305407/social-network-conservative-bias-twitter-facebook-ted-cruz">towards increasing polarisation</a>. Incendiary and misinformation-laden posts tend to generate clicks.</p> <p>As Zuckerberg himself <a href="https://www.facebook.com/notes/mark-zuckerberg/a-blueprint-for-content-governance-and-enforcement/10156443129621634/">notes</a>, “when left unchecked, people on the platform engage disproportionately” with such content.</p> <p>Over the years, conservatives have accused Facebook of <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/04/10/ted-cruz-threatens-regulate-facebook-twitter-over-alleged-bias/3423095002/">anti-conservative bias</a>, for which the company faced <a href="https://www.thewrap.com/trump-campaign-halts-twitter-spending-over-disgusting-bias-against-mitch-mcconnell/">financial penalties by the Republican Party</a>. This is despite research indicating <a href="https://www.mediamatters.org/facebook/study-analysis-top-facebook-pages-covering-american-political-news">no such bias exists</a> on the platform.</p> <p><strong>Fanning the flames</strong></p> <p>Facebook’s <a href="https://www.livescience.com/49585-facebook-addiction-viewed-brain.html">addictive</a> news feed rewards us for simply skimming headlines, conditioning us to react viscerally.</p> <p>Its sharing features have been found to <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146">promote falsehoods</a>. They can <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/10/can-voting-facebook-button-improve-voter-turnout/">trick users</a> into attributing news to their friends, causing them to assign trust to unreliable news sources. This provides a breeding ground for <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-10-05/conspiracy-theories-coronavirus-5g-conspiratorial-psychology/12722320">conspiracies</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0207383">Studies</a> have also shown social media to be an ideal environment for campaigns aimed at creating mistrust, which explains the increasing <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/516412-polls-show-trust-in-scientific-political-institutions-eroding">erosion of trust in science and expertise</a>.</p> <p>Worst of all are Facebook’s “echo chambers”, which convince people that only their own opinions are mainstream. This encourages hostile “us versus them” dialogue, which leads to polarisation. This pattern <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2020/02/21/concerns-about-democracy-in-the-digital-age/">suppresses valuable democratic debate</a> and has been described as an <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Age-Surveillance-Capitalism-Future-Frontier/dp/1610395697">existential threat to democracy itself</a>.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Facebook’s staff hasn’t been shy about skewing liberal, even suggesting in 2016 that Facebook work to <a href="https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2016/04/facebook-employees-asked-mark-zuckerberg-if-they-should-try-to-stop-a-donald-trump-presidency/">prevent Trump’s election</a>. Around 2017, they proposed a feature called “<a href="https://www.theverge.com/2018/12/23/18154111/facebook-common-grounds-feature-conservative-bias-concerns-shelved-joel-kaplan">Common Ground</a>”, which would have encouraged users with different political beliefs to interact in less hostile ways.</p> <p>Kaplan opposed the proposition, according to <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebooks-lonely-conservative-takes-on-a-power-position-11545570000">The Wall Street Journal</a>, due to fears it could trigger claims of bias against conservatives. The project was eventually shelved in 2018.</p> <p>Facebook’s track record isn’t good news for those who want to live in a healthy democratic state. Polarisation certainly doesn’t lead to effective political discourse.</p> <p>While several <a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2020/10/preparing-for-election-day/">blog</a> <a href="https://about.fb.com/news/2020/08/preparing-for-myanmars-2020-election/">posts</a> from the company outline measures being taken to supposedly protect the integrity of the 2020 US presidential elections, it remains to be seen what this means in reality.</p> <p><em>Written by <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-brand-290376">Michael Brand</a>, Monash University. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/facebook-is-tilting-the-political-playing-field-more-than-ever-and-its-no-accident-148314">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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Prince Louis’ most precious moments in pictures

<p class="p1">It may be his goofy expressions or his attempt at perfecting the royal wave, but Prince Louis has managed to win the hearts of royal fans around the globe. The 2-year-old and the youngest of the Cambridge clan gets into plenty of mischief and thankfully, it’s all caught on camera.</p> <p class="p1">We’ve watched him grow from a newborn into a handsome little boy, and it seems people just can’t seem to get enough of the Prince.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CF4dvUDFPEK/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/tv/CF4dvUDFPEK/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">We've got some questions for you, @DavidAttenborough...🌍🕷️🐒</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/kensingtonroyal/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Duke and Duchess of Cambridge</a> (@kensingtonroyal) on Oct 3, 2020 at 5:59am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p class="p1">While he may never become king, that doesn’t take away from his popularity, and due to being the youngest, there is a certain fascination surrounding him.</p> <p class="p1">His most recent appearance was when he asked the famous Sir David Attenborough a question about animals, marking the first time people heard him speak.</p> <p class="p1">With his cherub face and golden hair, Louis has forged a name for himself.</p> <p class="p1">Take a look at some of Prince Louis’ most precious moments throughout the years.</p>

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Life on Venus? Traces of phosphine may be a sign of biological activity

<p>The discovery that the atmosphere of Venus absorbs a precise frequency of microwave radiation has just <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-1174-4">turned planetary science on its head</a>. An international team of scientists used radio telescopes in Hawaii and Chile to find signs that the clouds on Earth’s neighbouring planet contain tiny quantities of a molecule called phosphine.</p> <p>Phosphine is a compound made from phosphorus and hydrogen, and on Earth its only natural source is tiny microbes that live in oxygen-free environments. It’s too early to say whether phosphine is also a sign of life on Venus – but no other explanation so far proposed seems to fit.</p> <p>This video shows how methane was detected in the atmosphere of Mars. The process is the same for finding phosphine on Venus.</p> <p><strong>What makes an atmosphere?</strong></p> <p>The molecular makeup of a planet’s atmosphere normally depends on what its parent star is made of, the planet’s position in its star’s system, and the chemical and geological processes that take place given these conditions.</p> <p>There is phosphine in the atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, for example, but there it’s not a sign of life. Scientists think it is formed in the deep atmosphere at high pressures and temperatures, then dredged into the upper atmosphere by a strong convection current.</p> <p><strong>Join 130,000 people who subscribe to free evidence-based news.</strong></p> <p>Although phosphine quickly breaks down into phosphorus and hydrogen in the top clouds of these planets, enough lingers – 4.8 parts per million – to be observable. The phosphorus may be what gives clouds on Jupiter a reddish tinge.</p> <p>Things are different on a rocky planet like Venus. The new research has found fainter traces of phosphine in the atmosphere, at 20 parts per billion.</p> <p>Lightning, clouds, volcanoes and meteorite impacts might all produce some phosphine, but not enough to counter the rapid destruction of the compound in Venus’s highly oxidising atmosphere. The researchers considered all the chemical processes they could think of on Venus, but none could explain the concentration of phosphine. What’s left?</p> <p>On Earth, phosphine is only produced by microbial life (and by various industrial processes) – and the concentration in our atmosphere is in the parts per trillion range. The much higher concentration on Venus cannot be ignored.</p> <p><strong>Signs of life?</strong></p> <p>To determine whether the phosphine on Venus is really produced by life, chemists and geologists will be trying to identify other reactions and processes that could be alternative explanations.</p> <p>Meanwhile, biologists will be trying to better understand the microbes that live in Venus-like conditions on Earth – high temperatures, high acidity, and high levels of carbon dioxide – and also ones that produce phosphine.</p> <p>When Earth microbes produce phosphine, they do it via an “anaerobic” process, which means it happens where no oxygen is present. It has been observed in places such as activated sludge and sewage treatment plants, but the exact collection of microbes and processes is not well understood.</p> <p>Biologists will also be trying to work out whether the microbes on Earth that produce phosphine could conceivably do it under the harsh Venusian conditions. If there is some biological process producing phosphine on Venus, it may be a form of “life” very different from what we know on Earth.</p> <p>Searches for life beyond Earth have often skipped over Venus, because its surface temperature is around 500℃ and the atmospheric pressure is almost 100 times greater than on Earth. Conditions are <a href="https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/ast.2017.1783">more hospitable for life</a> as we know it about 50 kilometres off the ground, although there are still vast clouds of sulfuric acid to deal with.</p> <p><strong>Molecular barcodes</strong></p> <p>The researchers found the phosphine using spectroscopy, which is the study of how light interacts with molecules. When sunlight passes through Venus’s atmosphere, each molecule absorbs very specific colours of this light.</p> <p>Using telescopes on Earth, we can take this light and split it into a massive rainbow. Each type of molecule present in Venus’ atmosphere produces a distinctive pattern of dark absorption lines in this rainbow, like an identifying barcode.</p> <p>This barcode is not always strongest in visible light. Sometimes it can only be detected in the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are invisible to the human eye, such as UV rays, microwave, radio waves and infrared.</p> <p>The barcode of carbon dioxide, for example, is most evident in the infrared region of the spectrum.</p> <p>While phosphine on Jupiter was first detected in infrared, for Venus observations astronomers used radio telescopes: the <a href="https://www.almaobservatory.org/en/home/">Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array</a> (ALMA) and <a href="https://www.eaobservatory.org/jcmt/about-jcmt/">James Clerk Maxwell Telescope</a> (JCMT), which can detect the barcode of phosphine in millimetre wavelengths.</p> <p><strong>New barcodes, new discoveries</strong></p> <p>The discovery of phosphine on Venus relied not only on new observations, but also a more detailed knowledge of the compound’s barcode. Accurately predicting the barcode of phosphine across all relevant frequencies took <a href="http://www.tampa.phys.ucl.ac.uk/ftp/eThesis/ClaraSousaSilva2015.pdf">the whole PhD</a> of astrochemist Clara Sousa-Silva in the <a href="https://www.ucl.ac.uk/exoplanets/research/spectroscopy-exoplanets">ExoMol group</a> at University College London in 2015.</p> <p>She used computational quantum chemistry – basically putting her molecule into a computer and solving the equations that describe its behaviour – to predict the strength of the barcode at different colours. She then tuned her model using available experimental data before making the <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/1410.2917">16.8 billion lines of phosphine’s barcode</a> available to astronomers.</p> <p>Sousa-Silva originally thought her data would be used to study Jupiter and Saturn, as well as weird stars and distant “hot Jupiter” exoplanets.</p> <p>More recently, she led the detailed consideration of <a href="https://arxiv.org/abs/1910.05224">phosphine as a biosignature</a> – a molecule whose presence implies life. This analysis demonstrated that, on small rocky exoplanets, phosphine should not be present in observable concentrations unless there was life there as well.</p> <p>But she no doubt wouldn’t have dreamed of a phone call from an astronomer who has discovered phosphine on our nearest planetary neighbour. With phosphine on Venus, we won’t be limited to speculating and looking for molecular barcodes. We will be able to send probes there and hunt for the microbes directly.</p> <p><em>Written by Laura McKemmish, UNSW; Brendan Paul Burns, UNSW, and Lucyna Kedziora-Chudczer, Swinburne University of Technology. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/life-on-venus-traces-of-phosphine-may-be-a-sign-of-biological-activity-146093">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Behind the new Samsung Fold: how the quest to maximise screen size is driving major innovation

<p>To enlarge a phone, or not to enlarge a phone? That is the question. In the world of flagship smartphones, there seems to be one clear trend: bigger is better.</p> <p>Manufacturers are trying to strip away anything that might stand in the way of the largest possible slab of screen. There is also growing demand for thinner phones with diminishing <a href="https://www.lifewire.com/bezel-4155199">bezels</a> (the area surrounding a screen).</p> <p>This trend has now culminated in the latest innovation in smartphone design, the <a href="https://www.t3.com/au/news/best-folding-phones">foldable screen phone</a>. These devices sport thin <a href="https://www.techradar.com/au/news/what-is-oled">OLED</a> self illuminating screens that can be folded in half.</p> <p>The newest release is the <a href="https://www.theverge.com/21427462/samsung-galaxy-z-fold-2-review">Samsung Galaxy Z fold 2</a> – a device that is almost three-quarters screen and has extravagant overtones rivalled only by a hefty <a href="https://www.samsung.com/au/smartphones/galaxy-z-fold2/buy/">A$2,999 price tag</a>.</p> <p><strong>Hear from them</strong></p> <p>But to prevent the phones themselves from growing to unwieldy size, manufacturers are having to find ways to balance size with usability and durability. This presents some interesting engineering challenges, as well as some innovative solutions.</p> <p><strong>Internal design complexities of folding phones</strong></p> <p>Modern phones still typically use a thin LCD or plastic OLED display covered by an outer glass panel.</p> <p>Folding displays are a new category that exploit the flexibility of OLED display panels. Instead of simply fixing these panels to a rigid glass panel, they carefully engineer the panel so that it bends – but never quite tightly enough to snap or crack.</p> <p>Internal structural support is needed to make sure the panel doesn’t crease, or isn’t stressed to the point of creating damage, discolouration or visible surface ripples.</p> <p>Since this is a mechanical, moving system, reliability issues need to be considered. For instance, how long will the hinge last? How many times can it be <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2019/10/4/20898484/samsung-galaxy-fold-folding-test-failure-durability">folded and unfolded</a> before it malfunctions? Will dirt or dust make its way into the assembly during daily use and affect the screen?</p> <p>Such devices need an added layer of reliability over traditional slab-like phones, which have no moving parts.</p> <p><strong>Large screen, thin phone: a recipe for disaster?</strong></p> <p>Each generation of smartphones becomes thinner and with smaller bezels, which improves the viewing experience but can make the phone harder to handle.</p> <p>In such designs, the area of the device you can grip without touching the display screen is small. This leads to a higher chance of <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/study-19-percent-of-people-drop-phones-down-toilet/">dropping the device</a> – a blunder even the best of us have made.</p> <p>There’s an ongoing tussle between consumers and manufacturers. Consumers want a large, viewable surface as well as an easily portable and rugged device. But from an engineering point of view, these are usually competing requirements.</p> <p>You’ll often see people in smartphone ads holding the device with two hands. In real life, however, most people use their phone with <a href="https://www.smartinsights.com/mobile-marketing/mobile-design/research-on-mobile-interaction-behaviour-and-design/">one</a> <a href="https://alistapart.com/article/how-we-hold-our-gadgets/">hand</a>.</p> <p>Thus, the shift towards larger, thinner phones has also given rise to a boom in demand for assistive tools attached to the back, such as <a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/best-popsockets">pop-out grips and phone rings</a>.</p> <p>In trying to maximise screen size, smartphone developers also have to account for interruptions in the display, such as the placement of cameras, laser scanners (for face or object identification), proximity sensors and speakers. All are placed to minimise visual intrusion.</p> <p><strong>Now you see it, now you don’t</strong></p> <p>In the engineering world, to measure the physical world you need either cameras or sensors, such as in a fingerprint scanner.</p> <p>With the race to increase the real estate space on screens, typically these cameras and scanners are placed somewhere around the screen. But they take up valuable space.</p> <p>This is why we’ve recently seen tricks to carve out more space for them, such as <a href="https://www.techradar.com/au/news/this-is-the-worlds-first-smartphone-where-half-the-screen-is-a-fingerprint-scanner">pop up</a> cameras and <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=phone+screen+hole+for+camera&amp;source=lmns&amp;bih=598&amp;biw=1280&amp;rlz=1C5CHFA_enAU871AU871&amp;safe=active&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjXvcyoveDrAhUwhUsFHXvqBYMQ_AUoAHoECAEQAA">punch-hole</a> cameras, in which the camera sits in a cutout hole allowing the display to extend to the corners.</p> <p>But another fantastic place for sensors is right in front of us: the screen. Or more specifically, under the screen.</p> <p>Samsung is one company that has suggested placing selfie-cameras and fingerprint readers behind the screen. But how do you capture a photo or a face image through a layer of screen?</p> <p>Up until recently, this has been put in the “too hard basket”. But that is changing: Xiaomi, Huawei and <a href="https://www.extremetech.com/mobile/262497-samsung-patent-shows-phone-camera-inside-display">Samsung</a> all have patents for <a href="https://www.phonearena.com/news/samsung-galaxy-s21-s30-under-display-camera_id125174">under-display cameras</a>.</p> <p>There are a range of ways to do this, from allowing a camera to see through the screen, to using <a href="https://www.rp-photonics.com/microlenses.html">microlenses</a> and camera pixels distributed throughout the display itself – similar to an insect’s <a href="https://www.britannica.com/animal/insect/Nervous-system#ref250944">compound eye</a>.</p> <p>In either case, the general engineering challenge is to implement the feature in a way that doesn’t impact screen image quality, nor majorly affect camera resolution or colour accuracy.</p> <p><strong>Laptops in our pockets</strong></p> <p>With up to 3.8 billion smartphone users <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/">expected by 2021</a>, mobile computing is a primary consumer technology area seeing significant growth and investment.</p> <p>One driver for this is the professional market, where larger mobile devices allow more efficient on-the-go business transactions. The second market is individuals who who <a href="https://www.statista.com/topics/779/mobile-internet/"><em>only</em> have a mobile device</a> and no laptop or desktop computer.</p> <p>It’s all about choice, but also functionality. Whatever you choose has to get the job done, support a positive user experience, but also survive the rigours of the real world.</p> <p><em>Written by Andrew Maxwell. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/behind-the-new-samsung-fold-how-the-quest-to-maximise-screen-size-is-driving-major-innovation-145700">The Conversation.</a></em></p>

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100-year-old postcard finally gets delivered!

<p>A woman from Michigan ended up receiving a postcard in her mailbox which had been sent almost exactly 100 years ago.</p> <p>Brittany Keech from Belding, east of Grand Rapids said the message took her by surprise and is now on the hunt of the relatives of the intended recipient.</p> <p>The postcard had a stamp on it with George Washington’s face and was postmarked October 29th, 1920 having been sent right before Halloween of that year, from Jamestown, Michigan.</p> <p>Keech is now hopeful that she’ll be able to track down the descendants of the people whom the message was intended.</p> <p>“This might be something that their parents can say, 'yea I remember when your great-great grandma would tell me stories’.”</p> <p>So far, she has posted it to a local Facebook group which features local stories where it has garnered over a hundred comments.</p> <p>If the family is not found, she says she may donate it to the local museum in Belding.</p> <p>One member of the community, Robby Peters, has begun the search to find relatives.</p> <p>“I do some genealogy research as a hobby,' said Peters to the<a rel="noopener" href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2020/09/12/with-1920-postmark-mail-is-delivered-michigan-home-100-years-late/" target="_blank"> Washington Post.</a> </p> <p>“I started helping my own family, and I kind of caught the bug after that.”</p> <p>Peters found a Roy McQueen in the 1920 census who lived at the same address where Keech is currently residing with her husband and two children.</p> <p>McQueen was originally from Canada and moved to America in 1887.</p> <p>He was married to a Nora Murdock and was the manager of a produce company.</p> <p>The likely author of the postcard is Florence 'Flossie' Burgess, the daughter of Nora Murdock's sister, according to Peters.</p> <p>“I found census records, death records and marriage records,” he explained. “The postcard contained a couple of names and it had a destination, so I had an idea of where to start searching.”</p> <p>“I built a family tree,” Peters said. “It doesn't look like Roy and Nora had children, and Flossie seems to have remained unmarried, so there are no direct descendants.”</p>

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Nelson Mandela’s final photos

<p>Nelson Mandela, the legendary leader who helped to end apartheid in South Africa and later became the country’s first black president, had largely withdrawn from public life by 2011. But he agreed to one last photoshoot: A portrait-sitting for photographer Adrian Steirn’s “21 Icons” project, a multimedia series highlighting those who played a role in shaping modern South Africa.</p> <p>Steirn, one of South Africa’s leading photographers, captured Mandela at his boyhood home in the village of Qunu, located in the nation’s Eastern Cape Province. The photoshoot would become one of Mandela’s last.</p> <p>Mandela’s portrait in the 21 Icons project took careful consideration. “We had to come up with a concept that was both viable and meaningful,” Steirn told <em>Reader’s Digest</em>.</p> <p>The final result was a photograph titled “A Reflection of Dignity,” which captured Mandela’s “majestic aura and humble spirit simultaneously,” HuffPost.com wrote. “The concept of the mirror allowed him to step out of the portrait and ‘reflect’ on South Africa today and the part he played in that process,” according to Steirn.</p> <p>A South African himself, Steirn says that his deep admiration for Mandela inspired him to create the “21 Icons” project. Shaking the leader’s hand for the first time “was amazing,” he says.</p> <p>“You hear so much about this man, living in a country that is based around his narrative.” But Mandela – or Madiba, as he was affectionately nicknamed by South Africans – quickly put Steirn and his crew at ease.</p> <p>“He was the kind of guy that made you feel like the important one. That was his gift,” Steirn says.</p> <p>Mandela and Steirn shared a laugh together during a brief pause in the photoshoot. “At the end of the day, one of the great lessons for me was you can’t idolise anyone,” Steirn says. “We are all human.”</p> <p>In 2013, Adrian’s stunning photo of Mandela with the mirror was purchased by a private art collector for $200,000 – the highest price ever paid for a local portrait. Part of the proceeds were donated to the construction of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in Johannesburg, which opened its doors in 2017.</p> <p>Damon Hyland, a member of Steirn’s crew for the “21 Icons” project, arranged the lighting for the photoshoot. The photos were not enhanced in any way, according to Steirn, allowing the room’s natural light to illuminate the shot.</p> <p>The portrait-sitting was one of the last before Mandela’s death, and the power of the moment made the crew emotional at times.</p> <p>“In those moments, it becomes very clear that no matter what colour we are or what gender we are… it doesn’t matter what we achieve in life. We’re all mortal,” Steirn says.</p> <p>Steirn, Hyland, and Meme Selaelo Kgagara positioned Mandela’s mirror for the shot. Though Steirn and his crew were nervous before the photoshoot, he says that Mandela’s good-natured and kind personality soon calmed their jitters. “There was a humbleness around Mandela, there was a humour about Mandela that set him apart,” according to Steirn. “He was a very real man.”</p> <p>Steirn photographed Mandela for the last time in 2013 – two days before the leader was admitted to the hospital with a lung infection.</p> <p>Mandela was watching the National Geographic channel, Steirn recalls. “He gave so much to this country; he represented unity to South Africa. Knowing we would lose him was an impactful, intense moment,” Steirn says.</p> <p>“In my own way, it was goodbye.”</p> <p>A few months later, Mandela passed away in his home.</p> <p><strong>IMAGES:</strong> Courtesy Adrian Steirn</p> <p><em>Written by Brooke Nelson. This article first appeared on <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.readersdigest.co.nz/culture/see-the-last-photos-ever-taken-of-nelson-mandela" target="_blank">Reader’s Digest</a>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <a rel="noopener" href="http://readersdigest.co.nz/subscribe" target="_blank">here’s our best subscription offer</a>.</em></p>

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How to stamp out COVID-19 in New Zealand again

<p>Auckland, and possibly other parts of New Zealand, almost certainly have more cases of COVID-19 in the community than the <a href="https://www.health.govt.nz/news-media/media-releases/4-cases-covid-19-unknown-source">four new cases confirmed</a> yesterday.</p> <p>Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern activated a <a href="https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/pm-comments-auckland-covid-19-case">resurgence plan</a> late yesterday, placing all of Auckland back under alert level 3 restrictions from today until midnight on Friday to allow time for contacts to be traced and tested.</p> <p>But until we can identify the chain of transmission, New Zealanders should prepare for restrictions to remain in place for longer.</p> <p>All four new cases are within one family in South Auckland, with no links yet discovered to quarantine or border facilities. But family members work in different places across different suburbs, which means the restrictions need to apply to the whole city.</p> <p><strong>Get news that’s free, independent and based on evidence.</strong></p> <p>Get newsletter</p> <p>When Melbourne found itself in a similar position a month ago, the city’s strategy was to lockdown specific suburbs. Unfortunately this failed to contain the virus.</p> <p><strong>Quick return to restrictions</strong></p> <p>Swift and decisive action is important, and we support the decision to place stricter conditions on Auckland and to return the rest of the country to alert level 2. We should all be very cautious.</p> <p>Everyone working at the border or in managed isolation will be tested and pop-up stations have opened across Auckland to carry out mass testing. But it is quite possible someone within the wider contact network of the cases has travelled outside Auckland. People who have travelled to Auckland in the last two weeks should act as if they are under level 3 restrictions and stay home from work.</p> <p>Whether we are in Auckland or not, we should all resume social distancing, working from home if we can, and wearing a mask if possible when we go out. If we do the right things now, there’s a good chance we will be able to contain this community outbreak before it spreads too much further.</p> <p>We’re going to need to do a lot of testing to work out how far the virus has spread. It’s more effective at this stage to target high-risk groups rather than testing people at random. People with symptoms or people who have been identified as close contacts of known cases should be prioritised for testing.</p> <p>If you are offered a test or you don’t feel well, you should get tested, but if you feel fine, just stay at home.</p> <p><strong>Contact tracing</strong></p> <p>Rapid contact tracing is going to be key to getting the virus under control. <a href="https://www.tepunahamatatini.ac.nz/2020/08/10/successful-covid-19-contact-tracing-systems-for-new-zealand/">Our recent modelling</a> shows that if we can trace and quarantine 80% of contacts within two days on average, it will go a long way to containing the outbreak.</p> <p>Contact tracers are also doing backward tracing – finding the source of infection so we know how many other cases are out there – as well as forward tracing, which means quarantining contacts so they don’t pass the virus on.</p> <p>For Auckland, moving to alert level 3 reduces the number of contacts most of us have. This will make the job easier for contact tracers over the coming days as they may only have to trace one or two contacts per person rather than ten or more.</p> <p>Everyone should now draw up a list of where they’ve been and who they’ve seen for the last two weeks. This is also a wake-up call to redouble our efforts to keep diaries of activities and to use the <a href="https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-novel-coronavirus-resources-and-tools/nz-covid-tracer-app">NZ COVID Tracer app</a> to keep a record.</p> <p>The Tracer app has the added advantage that the Ministry of Health can automatically notify anybody who has visited the same location as a confirmed or potential case. We encourage Aucklanders in particular to check their apps, diaries and bank accounts to compile as much detail as possible of places they have visited or people they have met over the last 14 days.</p> <p><strong>What happens next</strong></p> <p>What happens next really depends on the results of the contact tracing investigations already underway. There is a lot of luck involved in the early stages of an outbreak like this one. If we are lucky, many of those infected may not have yet have passed the virus on.</p> <p>But it’s also possible there may have been a superspreading event, for example at a workplace or social gathering. In that case, there could be a large number of cases already out there. Although the alert level is currently in place until Friday, we should be prepared for this to be extended, depending on how many cases we find in the next three days.</p> <p>Back in February, when we had our first cases of COVID-19, the situation was very different. We had an open border and most cases were international travellers or their close contacts.</p> <p>We were also getting around 80 new cases a day by the time we went into lockdown in March. This time we have locked down with a smaller number of cases and we still have strict border restrictions in place.</p> <p>This should give us confidence that if we all do the right things, we will be able to get the outbreak under control much faster than last time.</p> <p><em>Written by Michael Plank, Alex James and Shaun Hendy. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/new-zealand-is-on-alert-as-covid-19-returns-this-is-what-we-need-to-stamp-it-out-again-144304">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Are there ‘male’ and ‘female’ brains? Computers can see a distinction

<p>How useful are the well-known and hotly contested categories of “male brain” and “female brain”?</p> <p>Among experts, nobody really questions that anatomical sex differences in the brain exist. But since the advent of brain science, the scientific community has been divided over how many differences there are, which ones have been definitively proven, how large or small they are, and what they actually mean.</p> <p>And, over the past several years, a new debate has been brewing among experts. Do anatomical differences in the brain “add up” to two clearly recognisable (sex-specific) brain types? Or do they rather “mix up” and form idiosyncratic combinations or “mosaics”, independent of sex?</p> <p><strong>A mosaic of male and female features</strong></p> <p>The mosaic hypothesis was supported by the results of a <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/112/50/15468">ground-breaking study</a> published in 2015 by Daphna Joel and her collaborators at Tel-Aviv University.</p> <p>Using brain scans of more than 1,400 participants, Joel and company identified the 10 regions showing the largest differences in size between men and women. Next, they classified each region of each brain as “male-typical”, “female-typical” or “intermediate”.</p> <p>Most of the brains turned out to be “mosaics” of male-typical <em>and</em> female-typical features, rather than being consistently male-typical (“male brains”) or female-typical (“female brains”). Joel concluded that brains “cannot be categorised into two distinct classes: male brain/female brain”.</p> <p><strong>Algorithms can ‘predict’ sex from brain data</strong></p> <p>Critics of the mosaic brain theory, however, point to <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/hbm.24462">machine-learning algorithms</a> that can use a brain scan to “predict” an individual’s sex with 80 to 90 percent accuracy.</p> <p>If an algorithm can classify brains into sexes so easily, the argument goes, it must be recognising some underlying difference.</p> <p>To some extent, this is a disagreement about what the terms “male brains” and “female brains” should entail. For Joel, using these categories would only be justified if, for example, knowing somebody had a “female” or “male” brain allowed you to predict other things about their brain’s features.</p> <p>But for Joel’s critics, the important thing is predicting the individual’s sex. It doesn’t matter whether or not slotting somebody’s brain into a sex category gives you more information about its structure.</p> <p>Most machine-learning classification algorithms are “black boxes”, which means they don’t reveal anything about <em>how</em> they combine brain features to define “male” and “female” brains. Despite the accuracy of the algorithms, their definitions may not even be consistent: <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00399/full">some evidence</a> suggests the algorithms use different brain features when classifying different subpopulations of females and males.</p> <p><strong>Algorithms’ sex prediction may depend on head size</strong></p> <p>And now even this classification accuracy is under challenge. A research team led by one of us (Carla Sanchis Segura) published <a href="https://rdcu.be/b50w1">a new study</a> that considers a neglected complication. On average, women have smaller bodies, heads and brains than men.</p> <p>In the early days of brain science, these differences in body and brain were mistakenly taken as evidence of (white) men’s intellectual superiority. But in recent years, it has been recognised that head size variation poses a problem for neuroscientists interested in sex differences.</p> <p>When you see a female/male difference in the size of a brain region, how do you know if you are seeing a specific effect of sex? It might simply be a difference between larger brains (more of which belong to males) and smaller brains (more of which belong to females), or a combination of the two.</p> <p>Neuroscientists try to solve this problem by statistically “controlling” for head size. But exactly how is this done?</p> <p>There are several different statistical methods in use. The current “gold standard” for assessing their validity is comparing the sex differences in the brain they find with those obtained in selected groups of females and males matched to have similar head sizes.</p> <p>Using this “gold standard”, the Sanchis-Segura research team found, <a href="https://bsd.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13293-019-0245-7">in an earlier study</a>, that not all currently used methods are effective and valid. They also found that the method used has a major impact on the number, the size and even the direction of the estimated sex differences.</p> <p>Having worked out which statistical control techniques are the most valid, Sanchis-Segura and her team were able to investigate an important question: to what extent does the high accuracy of “brain sex” classification depend on head size variation?</p> <p>The researchers tested 12 different sex-predicting machine-learning algorithms with data that had been properly adjusted for head size variation, data that had been poorly adjusted, and data that had not been adjusted at all.</p> <p>The algorithms delivered highly accurate results when using both raw data and poorly adjusted data. But when the same 12 algorithms were fed with properly adjusted data, classification accuracy dropped to 10% above ‘chance’, at about 60% accuracy.</p> <p>One particularly deflationary finding of the study was that the algorithms achieved high accuracy if they were given just one piece of information – namely, head size!</p> <p>These new findings continue to challenge the usefulfness of the categories “male brain” and “female brain”. Sex certainly affects the brain, and sex effects are important to study. But current attempts to classify brains into the categories “male brain” or “female brain” using machine-learning algorithm seem to add little beyond what has been known since the inception of modern science – that men, on average, have larger heads.</p> <p><em>Written by Cordelia Fine. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/are-there-male-and-female-brains-computers-can-see-a-distinction-but-they-rely-strongly-on-differences-in-head-size-143972">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Million-dollar painting deemed almost worthless

<p><span>One guest on BBC's Antiques Roadshow was left deflated on the show after they learnt a portrait thought to be an original Lely painting was almost worth nothing.</span><br /><br /><span>The visitor appeared on the show with one of the experts, to find out the true value of the artefact that had been passed down through his family. </span><br /><br /><span>He revealed the artwork was purchased in an auction in the 1850s, before it was placed in the home of the current owner - having been passed down through the family.</span><br /><br /><span>The piece was believed to have been painted by the popular artist Sir Peter Lely, who was around in the 1600s.</span><br /><br /><span>However the expert had to break the news that the piece was not an original and most likely a copy painted in the 19th century - two centuries after Lely's paintings.</span></p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7837079/painting-2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/34b3a7c3aa9d45c993f2bf049755e4c2" /><br /><br /><span>It featured all the parts of a painting by this artist, even documented as one of his works in an auction catalogue from the time it was purchased.</span><br /><br /><span>The show expert says it was obviously not original - but if it had been; it would be worth around a million dollars. </span><br /><br /><span>However, due to the artwork likely being a dupe, he said the it’s value dropped down dramatically to almost nothing. </span><br /><br /><span>He explained: "The question is, is it by Lely? The catalogue of 1845 you've just shown me says Lely doesn't it, quite clearly. But in those days they had somewhat a looser interpretation of the trade description act, if it indeed ever existed.</span><br /><br /><span>"The thing about Lely, the great portrait painter that he was, is that when he died he left hundreds of unfinished portraits and versions of portraits already done.</span><br /><br /><span>"His students and studio assistants finished them really quickly, and sold them all so that his entire estate including his collection of old masters made something like £30,00 in the 17th century, which was a massive amount of money. He was so popular.</span><br /><br /><span>"It effectively flooded the market with versions of his pictures done by lesser hands, the question is, is it one of those?"</span><br /><br /><span>The expert went on to reveal what the portrait could really be worth. </span><br /><br /><span>"The secret here is not to look too closely I’m afraid, you can tell I’m softening you up for a bit of a blow,” he said. </span><br /><br /><span>"Sorry but I think, I’m afraid, this is a shadow of a dream. It's not even by a studio assistant. I think it's a much later copy.</span><br /><br /><span>"Something about the reduced scale, of course it should be massive, makes it look more domestic. Something about the frankly Victorian idea of a 17th century frame, it's been copied.</span><br /><br /><span>"And the colours are slightly gaudier than you’d expect, a little bit of clunkiness in the drawing of the hand, and then put on top of that this brown finish which is quite deliberately antiquing it, I think what we're looking at is a 19th century copy."</span><br /><br /><span>The expert went on to say despite the guest’s disappointments that if it was an “original Lely, it would be pretty well around a million pounds.” </span><br /><br /><span>"But as it is, it's probably worth around I don't know, £600. I'm sorry to let you down."</span></p>

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Bride demands refund from wedding photographer over Black Lives Matter support

<p>An American wedding photographer said a couple tried to cancel their contract after she expressed her support for Black Lives Matter in a social media post.</p> <p>Shakira Rochelle, a photographer based in Cincinnati, Ohio, shared her support of the movement on her social media pages. The post read: “Shakira Rochelle Photography stands in solidarity with the black community. The black lives matter movement has my endless support.”</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/CBEt3EblKff/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/CBEt3EblKff/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">Shakira Rochelle Photography stands in solidarity with the black community. The black lives matter movement has my endless support ✊🏼.</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/shakirarochellephotographyy/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Shakira Rochelle🌿</a> (@shakirarochellephotographyy) on Jun 5, 2020 at 5:34pm PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Rochelle later received a text message from a client requesting her deposit back.</p> <p>“We have done a lot of talking and we cannot bring ourselves to support anyone who is so outspoken on matters that simply do not concern them as well as someone that does not believe that ALL lives matter,” the bride wrote on the text.</p> <p>“We … feel that you aren’t stable enough to complete the job we need from you.”</p> <p>Rochelle told the bride that the deposit was non-refundable, as per their signed contract. “I wish you a lifetime of growth and I would like to thank you for your donation to Black Lives Matter,” the photographer concluded.</p> <p>The bride told Rochelle she would be “hearing from our attorney”.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">I love it here. <a href="https://t.co/hKH4WFOSk2">pic.twitter.com/hKH4WFOSk2</a></p> — Q.🍫 (@PINKdot_COM) <a href="https://twitter.com/PINKdot_COM/status/1272880090003771393?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 16, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>The screenshots of the messages – which Rochelle posted on her personal Facebook account – went on to become viral on social media sites. A Twitter post with pictures of the exchange has received more than 1.1 million likes.</p> <p>On Wednesday, Rochelle released a statement addressing claims that her post was fabricated.</p> <p>“There is a photoshopped screenshot circulating stating that coming forward with this story was a business tactic to make a profit on the BLM movement,” she said.</p> <p>“This is the most incredibly absurd thing I have ever heard. The original post started out private until a friend asked if she could share it. I never had the intentions or the desire to go viral for this or anything else.”</p> <p>Rochelle explained that prior to the incident, she had been booked until winter and was not seeking for more clients.</p> <p>“I have always stood up for human rights and will continue to do so. I have marched with my loved ones as well as alone. My intentions are pure,” she said.</p> <p>“Please know that what you saw from me was the complete story.”   </p> <p>Black Lives Matter protests have been initiated across the US and around the world following the killing of George Floyd in police custody on May 25.</p>

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Australia’s decisive win on plain packaging paves way for other countries to follow suit

<p>The decision, <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news20_e/435_441abr_e.htm">handed down on June 9 by the World Trade Organisation’s appeals body</a>, that Australia’s plain packaging tobacco control policy doesn’t flout WTO laws marks the end of almost a decade of legal wrangling over this landmark public health policy. And more importantly, it paves the way for other nations around the world to follow Australia’s lead.</p> <p>In 2012 Australia became the first country in the world to implement <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2011A00148">tobacco plain packaging laws</a>, having recognised that the tobacco industry uses packaging both to market cigarettes and to undermine health warnings.</p> <p>The industry has long acknowledged the powerful role of packaging design in attracting consumers and reinforcing brand image. A <a href="https://www.printinnovationasia.com/single-post/2017/01/18/The-Premiumisation-of-Cigarette-Packaging-in-Indonesia">2017 trade article</a> on the “premiumisation” of cigarettes explained the rationale behind glossy packaging:</p> <p><em>Features such as velvet touch, soft touch, etching, rise and relief can be applied across the surface of the packaging to make the product more impactful and raise customer engagement. The look of the packaging such as intense metallics through the use of foil simulation inks can also give cigarette packaging the luxurious effect and adds on to the premium feel of the product.</em></p> <p>A Cancer Research UK video shows how children react to glossy cigarette packs.</p> <p>The “plain packaging” mandated by Australia’s laws is in fact anything but. It features <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/health-topics/smoking-and-tobacco/tobacco-control/tobacco-plain-packaging">graphic, full-colour health warnings</a> presented on a drab brown background. Brand logos, designs, emblems, and slogans are banned; product brand names remain, but must appear in a standardised font.</p> <p>The result means tobacco packages can no longer serve as mini billboards that make cigarettes look aspirational and desirable.</p> <p><strong>Legal challenges</strong></p> <p>The tobacco industry launched three separate legal challenges to the law. First, JT International and British American Tobacco filed a lawsuit in the Australian High Court. Next, tobacco firm Philip Morris sought legal protection for its packaging designs under an existing investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. Finally, the industry filed a dispute through the WTO on behalf of four tobacco-producing countries: Cuba, Honduras, Indonesia and the Dominican Republic.</p> <p>In 2012 the High Court <a href="https://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/litigation/decisions/au-20121005-jt-intl.-and-bat-australasia-l">ruled in favour of the Australian government</a>, and in 2015 the investment treaty tribunal <a href="https://www.tobaccocontrollaws.org/litigation/decisions/au-20151217-philip-morris-asia-v-australia">dismissed Philip Morris Asia’s claim</a>. The WTO also <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-wto-tobacco-ruling/australia-wins-landmark-wto-ruling-on-plain-tobacco-packaging-idUSKBN1JO2BF">ruled in Australia’s favour</a> in 2018, but the Dominican Republic and Honduras appealed.</p> <p>That appeal was denied last week, meaning all legal challenges to Australia’s plain packaging laws have now been finally and decisively overruled – more than a decade after the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd <a href="https://tobaccolabels.ca/australia-announces-plain-packaging/">first announced the policy</a> in April 2010.</p> <p><strong>No more industry blocking</strong></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/435_441abr_conc_e.pdf">WTO’s appeal body agreed</a> plain packaging laws are likely to improve public health and that they are not unfairly restrictive to trade.</p> <p>The appeal was not expected to succeed, so the ruling comes as no surprise. But despite this, legal wrangling has become a <a href="https://untobaccocontrol.org/kh/legal-challenges/court-cases-litigation-policy-brief/">standard tobacco industry practice</a>, particularly through international channels such as the WTO. One reason is because the slow and cumbersome legal process can serve as a deterrent to other countries, who may hold off implementing similar laws until the legal outcome is known.</p> <p>Encouragingly, this stalling tactic seems to be losing its power. Countries such as France, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, and New Zealand have all forged ahead with plain packaging legislation despite the outstanding appeal.</p> <p>Now, however, lower-income countries can also confidently pursue plain packaging measures <a href="https://www.mccabecentre.org/news-and-updates/tobacco-plain-packaging-legal-victory-for-australia.html">without fear of falling foul of the WTO</a>.</p> <p><strong>What next?</strong></p> <p>Australia’s plain packaging law was groundbreaking at the time. But now the tobacco industry has responded with a range of tactics to exploit loopholes and offset the impact on their brands, meaning governments need to come up with yet more countermeasures.</p> <p>Once plain packaging was implemented, the tobacco industry quickly trademarked new brand names, such as Imperial Tobacco’s <a href="https://open.sydneyuniversitypress.com.au/9781743323977/rtec-the-future.html">Peter Stuyvesant + Loosie</a>, which contains 21 cigarettes instead of 20, and advertises the bonus cigarette within the name.</p> <p>Canada’s <a href="https://www.cancer.ca/en/about-us/for-media/media-releases/national/2019/plain-packaging-regulations/?region=qc">plain packaging laws</a>, enacted in February 2020, directly control the size and shape of the cigarettes themselves. For example, the law bans slim cigarettes targeted at young women who associate smoking with slimness and fashion.</p> <p>Widespread plain packaging could also help curb the <a href="https://theconversation.com/big-tobacco-wants-social-media-influencers-to-promote-its-products-can-the-platforms-stop-it-129957">uprise in tobacco marketing via social media influencers</a>. A tobacco pack covered in gruesome disease imagery doesn’t make for inspiring social media content.</p> <p>The WTO upheld Australia’s plain packaging laws because the government had convincing public health research to show the positive impact of plain packaging on public attitudes to smoking.</p> <p>Seen in that light, the decision isn’t just a win for public health. It’s also an encouraging sign that evidence-based policies can defeat even the deepest of corporate pockets.</p> <p><em>Written by Becky Freeman. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/australias-decisive-win-on-plain-packaging-paves-way-for-other-countries-to-follow-suit-140553">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Be careful with photos and how you talk: How to protect your grandkids online

<p>Parents have many things to worry about. It’s easy to stick our heads in the sand and assume bad things - like sexual abuse - won’t happen to our kids.</p> <p>But online sexual abuse is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/28/us/child-sex-abuse.html">increasing at an exponential rate</a>.</p> <p>Last week, the Australian Federal Police <a href="https://www.afp.gov.au/news-media/media-releases/afp-dismantles-australian-online-network-alleged-child-sex-offenders-and">announced it had busted</a> an alleged child sex offender network, <a href="https://www.news.com.au/national/crime/nine-men-charged-14-children-saved-in-australian-federal-policeled-child-sex-abuse-investigation/news-story/639fd7f63a3426748af0e533d7efd067">warning</a></p> <p><em>“child exploitation in Australia is becoming more prolific … this type of offending is becoming more violent and brazen.”</em></p> <p>The risks are especially high at the moment, as we spend more time on devices during the <a href="https://www.esafety.gov.au/about-us/blog/covid-19-online-risks-reporting-and-response">pandemic lockdown</a>.</p> <p>For example, recent media reports have warned about <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2020/04/18/parents-schools-urged-supervise-children-zoom-amid-fears-child/">Zoom calls being hijacked</a> by offenders showing child abuse material.</p> <p>This article, based on our work as parenting and maltreatment experts, looks at how parents can protect their children from online sexual abuse.</p> <p>In <a href="https://theconversation.com/use-proper-names-for-body-parts-dont-force-hugs-how-to-protect-your-kids-from-in-person-sexual-abuse-139970">a separate piece</a>, we also look at how to protect kids from in-person sexual abuse.</p> <p><strong>How common is online sexual abuse?</strong></p> <p>Online sexual abuse occurs across many platforms including social media, text messaging, websites, various apps, such as WhatsApp and Snapchat and <a href="https://theconversation.com/dark-web-study-reveals-how-new-offenders-get-involved-in-online-paedophile-communities-131933">the dark web</a>.</p> <p>Very broadly, it includes asking a child to send sexual content, a person sending your child sexual content, “sextortion” (coercing or manipulating children for sexual gain), and viewing, creating or sharing child exploitation/ abuse material (sometimes <a href="https://theconversation.com/whats-in-a-name-online-child-abuse-material-is-not-pornography-45840">inappropriately referred to as “child pornography”</a>).</p> <p>A <a href="https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/media/1747/how-safe-are-our-children-2019.pdf">2018 survey </a>of more than 2,000 children in the United Kingdom found one in seven children had been asked to send sexual information. And one in 25 primary school children (that’s roughly one in every class) had been sent or shown a naked or semi-naked picture or video by an adult. </p> <p><strong>Who are the abusers?</strong></p> <p>Online abusers are most likely to be <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1079063210370708">Caucasian males</a> who are attracted to prepubescent children.</p> <p>They <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24627189/">differ from in-person abusers</a> in that they are less likely to have easy physical access to children, have higher internet use, higher levels of education, and are less likely to have a criminal history. However, some people abuse children both online and in person.</p> <p>Importantly, some online sexual abuse is also committed by other adolescents <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09649069.2013.851178">under the age of 18</a>, creating and sharing sexual images.</p> <p>Research estimates <a href="https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/2018/02/16/sexting-what-does-research-say">16% of Australian children</a> between 10 and 19 receive “sexts” - sexually explicit or sexually suggestive texts or images via phone or internet - and 10% send them.</p> <p>Some image sharing occurs in genuinely consensual peer relationships, and this is generally not abusive. However, any coercion to share sexual content constitutes abuse.</p> <p><strong>Which children are most at risk?</strong></p> <p>Children with poor psychological health, poor relationships with their parents, low self-esteem, and those who have been exposed to other forms of abuse, are more <a href="https://capmh.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13034-019-0292-1">at risk</a> of online sexual abuse.</p> <p>Age-wise, girls aged 11 to 15 are at the <a href="https://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ECPAT-International-Report-Trends-in-Online-Child-Sexual-Abuse-Material-2018.pdf">highest risk</a> for child exploitation, although it also happens to very young children.</p> <p><strong>Tips for protecting your child</strong></p> <p>Here are some practical steps you can take to minimise the risks facing your child online and to help them safely navigate online challenges.</p> <p>These are based on known patterns of online abuse and identified factors that place children at greater or lesser risk.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Take care with photos</strong>. Consider who you allow to take photos of your children and where you share photos to ensure they don’t get misused.</li> <li><strong>Talk openly to children and teens about sex so they don’t seek out advice or information online from individuals</strong>. Children who are knowledgeable may be <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213495000173">less likely</a> to be targeted. In particular, talk about <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1524838017738726">consent</a>, and what is consensual behaviour between kids, and what is not.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Talk with teens about the safe sharing of images</strong>. This includes the risks associated with sharing photos of themselves in provocative poses or in revealing clothing. This conversation should start early and get more developed as your child grows up. A lot of child exploitation <a href="https://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/ECPAT-International-Report-Trends-in-Online-Child-Sexual-Abuse-Material-2018.pdf">material</a> is taken by teens or by people known to the children then shared more widely.</li> <li><strong>Be interested in the online lives of your children and know their online friends</strong>. Do this routinely, just as you do with their real-life friends. Be attentive to changes or special friends. Keep these conversations going. Listen to their experiences.</li> <li><strong>Encourage attendance at school-based prevention programs</strong>. And then talk with your kids about what they’ve learned to reinforce the messages or answer any questions.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Talk with your kids about how to respond to sexual innuendo or unwanted advances and when to tell an adult</strong>. Start by asking kids for examples of sexual innuendo and the types of things people might say online. Then brainstorm ways the best ways to respond. For example, teens could withdraw from conversations or block acquaintances. Or say something like “I’m not into that kind of chat” or say “No thanks, not interested” to any invitations or requests.</li> <li><strong>Talk with teens about online safety</strong>. This includes restricting who can view or reshare posts. You may need to upskill yourself first.</li> <li><strong>Know what your child is doing online</strong>. <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/2/e510?casa_token=3wbclJn_dlIAAAAA%3AfwLi9RZYcZqnCLzFfYZON9iQGf9uCymE7EEGNc5g49bLcN9_NVKjPRPO5w7E6O-_I182ayPkbSVVIw">Monitor</a> their online behaviour, rather than relying only on software controls, which are less effective.</li> </ul> <ul> <li><strong>Keep the computer in a communal area</strong>. Ensure their computer use occurs in communal areas of the home and restrict kids’ access to mobiles at night. If possible, do this from an early age and make it routine, so teens don’t get the message you don’t trust them.</li> <li><strong>Build your child’s esteem and confidence</strong>. Children with low self-esteem are more susceptible to online grooming designed to make children feel special.</li> <li><strong>Meet your own needs</strong>. Children are at greater risk of abuse when parents are struggling with their own mental health or substance issues. If you need help <a href="https://www.lifeline.org.au/">get support</a> or talk to your doctor.</li> </ul> <p><strong>More resources for parents are available via <a href="https://bravehearts.org.au/">Bravehearts</a> and at <a href="https://www.esafety.gov.au/">esafety.gov.au</a>.</strong></p> <p><strong>If you believe your child is the victim of grooming or exploitation, or you come across exploitation material, you can <a href="https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/report">report it via ThinkuKnow</a> or contact your local police.</strong></p> <p><strong>If you are a child, teen or young adult who needs help and support, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.</strong></p> <p><strong>If you are an adult who experienced abuse as a child, call the Blue Knot Helpline on 1300 657 380 or <a href="https://www.blueknot.org.au/Helpline">visit their website</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Written by Divna Haslam and Ben Matthews. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/be-careful-with-photos-talk-about-sex-how-to-protect-your-kids-from-online-sexual-abuse-139971">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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A chemical engineer explains: What makes pepper spray so intense? And is it a tear gas?

<p>In recent weeks, the world has looked on as governments use chemical irritants to control protesters and riots. Whether it’s tear gas, pepper spray, mace or pepper balls, all have one thing in common: they’re chemical weapons.</p> <p>Chemical warfare agents have been used twice in Sydney in the past week alone. Police <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-07/sydney-police-defend-pepper-spray-use-on-protesters/12330558">pepper-sprayed</a> demonstrators at Central Station, following Saturday’s major Black Lives Matter protest.</p> <p>The next day, tear gas <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-08/tear-gas-fired-into-exercise-yard-of-sydney-long-bay-jail/12332572">was used</a> to break up a fight at Long Bay jail, as prison guards filled an exercise yard with tear gas canisters – also impacting nearby residents.</p> <p>These events followed the deployment of <a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/05/politics/park-police-tear-gas/index.html">chemical riot control agents</a> – specifically “pepper bombs” – in Washington DC last week. They were used to clear protesters from a public park so President Donald Trump could walk from the White House to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.</p> <p>The White House made a highlight reel to celebrate Trump’s heroic walk across the street for his bible photo op...</p> <p>US Attorney General William Barr said “<a href="https://www.factcheck.org/2020/06/the-continuing-tear-gas-debate/">there was no tear gas used</a>”, claiming “pepper spray is not a chemical irritant. It’s not chemical.”</p> <p>I’m a chemical engineer and chemist who studies chemicals in the environment. So I thought I’d clear the air about what makes pepper spray such a powerful chemical irritant, and a chemical weapon.</p> <p><strong>What’s inside pepper spray?</strong></p> <p>The active compounds in pepper spray are collectively known as capsaicinoids. They are given the military symbol OC, for “oleoresin capsicum”.</p> <p>The most important chemical in OC is capsaicin. This is derived from chilli peppers in a chemical process that dissolves and concentrates it into a liquid. Capsaicin is the same compound that makes chillies hot, but in an intense, weaponised form.</p> <p>Not all capsaicinoids are obtained naturally. One called nonivamide (also known as PAVA or pelargonic acid vanillylamide) is mostly made by humans. PAVA is an <a href="https://cot.food.gov.uk/committee/committee-on-toxicity/cotstatements/cotstatementsyrs/cotstatements2002/pavastatement">intense irritant</a> used in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/dec/09/pepper-spray-used-in-non-violent-situations-in-prison-pilot">artificial pepper spray</a>.</p> <p><strong>Is pepper spray a tear gas?</strong></p> <p>We’ve established pepper spray is a chemical, but is it also a kind of tear gas?</p> <p>“<a href="https://emergency.cdc.gov/agent/riotcontrol/factsheet.asp">Tear gas</a>” is an informal term and a bit of a misnomer, because it isn’t a gas. Rather, tear gas refers to any weaponised irritant used to immobilise people.</p> <p>More specifically, tear gas is often used to describe weapons that disperse their irritants in the air either as liquid aerosol droplets (such as <a href="https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/a28904691/how-tear-gas-works/">gas canisters</a>), or as a powder (such as pepper balls). This definition distinguishes tear gas from personal self-defence sprays which use foams, gels and liquids.</p> <p>Tear gas canisters typically contain the irritants 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile (CS) and phenacyl chloride (CN). Both CS and CN are man-made chemicals discovered in a lab, unlike capsaicin (the traditional ingredient in pepper spray).</p> <p>But despite capsaicin coming from chilli peppers, pepper spray is still a weaponised irritant that can be delivered as an aerosol or powder. It should unequivocally be considered a type of tear gas.</p> <p><strong>Pepper spray as a weapon</strong></p> <p>The chemical irritants OC, CS and CN have military symbols because they are chemical weapons. They are termed “<a href="https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/06/10/rubber-bullets-protesters-victoria-snelgrove-boston">less-lethal</a>” because they are less likely to kill than conventional weapons. Their use, however, can still <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/judystone/2020/06/08/tear-gas-and-pepper-spray-can-maim-kill-and-spread-coronavirus/#47f17a2a725f">cause fatalities</a>.</p> <p>Technically, pepper spray and other tear gases are classified as lachrymatory agents. <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-is-tear-gas-139958">Lachrymatory agents</a> attack mucous membranes in the eyes and respiratory system.</p> <p>Pepper spray works almost instantly, forcing the eyes to close and flood with tears. Coupled with coughing fits and difficulty breathing, this means the targeted person is effectively <a href="https://healthland.time.com/2011/11/22/how-painful-is-pepper-spray/">blinded and incapacitated</a>. Because lachrymatory agents work on <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK544263/">nerve receptors</a> that help us sense heat, they also induce an intense burning sensation.</p> <p>The combined effects of pepper spray can last anywhere from 15 minutes to more than an hour.</p> <p>Lachrymatory agents emerged on the <a href="https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/germans-introduce-poison-gas">battlefields of World War I</a>. Artillery shells were filled with chemicals such as <a href="https://www.compoundchem.com/2014/05/17/chemical-warfare-ww1/">xylyl bromide and chloroacetone</a> and fired at enemy soldiers. Agents that induce choking, blistering and vomiting were added as the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/10/science/chemical-weapons-world-war-1-armistice.html">chemical arms race</a> escalated.</p> <p>In the 1920s, the <a href="https://www.un.org/disarmament/wmd/bio/1925-geneva-protocol/">Geneva Protocol</a> was enacted to ban the use of indiscriminate and often ineffective chemical weapons on the battlefield. Today, the unjustified use of chemical riot control agents <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/04/201242913130963418.html">threatens to erode</a> the systems that are meant to protect us from the most dangerous weaponised chemicals.</p> <p><em>Written by Gabriel da Silva. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-makes-pepper-spray-so-intense-and-is-it-a-tear-gas-a-chemical-engineer-explains-140441">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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Trump’s presidency is sinking deeper into crisis – but will he still get re-elected?

<p>Violence has <a href="https://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2020/05/30/protests-flare-around-the-united-states-over-minneapolis-killing">erupted across several US cities</a> after the death of a black man, George Floyd, who was shown on video gasping for breath as a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck. The unrest poses serious challenges for President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden as each man readies his campaign for the November 3 election.</p> <p>If the coronavirus had not already posed a threat to civil discourse in the US, the latest flashpoint in American racial politics makes this presidential campaign potentially one of the most incendiary in history.</p> <p>COVID-19 and Minneapolis may very well form the nexus within which the 2020 campaign will unfold. Trump’s critics have assailed his handling of both and questioned whether he can effectively lead the country in a moment of crisis.</p> <p>And yet, he may not be any more vulnerable heading into the election.</p> <p><strong>A presidency in crisis?</strong></p> <p>As the incumbent, Trump certainly faces the most immediate challenges. Not since Franklin Roosevelt in the second world war has a US president presided over the deaths of so many Americans from a single cause.</p> <p>The Axis powers and COVID-19 are not analogous, but any presidency is judged by its capacity to respond to enemies like these. With <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/america-at-boiling-point-how-one-death-rocked-a-nation-numbed-by-100-000-20200529-p54xpw.html">pandemic deaths now surpassing 100,000</a>, Trump’s fortunes will be inexorably tied to this staggering (and still rising) figure.</p> <p>Worse, the Minneapolis protests are showing how an already precarious social fabric has been frayed by the COVID-19 lockdowns.</p> <p>Americans have not come together to fight the virus. Rather, they have allowed a public health disaster to deepen divisions along racial, economic, sectional and ideological lines.</p> <p>Trump has, of course, often sought to gain from such divisions. But the magnitude and severity of the twin crises he is now facing will make this very difficult. By numerous measures, his is a presidency in crisis.</p> <p>And yet.</p> <p>Trump, a ferocious campaigner, will try to find ways to use both tragedies to his advantage and, importantly, makes things worse for his challenger.</p> <p>For starters, Trump did not cause coronavirus. And <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-21/trump-accuses-china-of-coronavirus-mass-killing/12270140">he will continue to insist</a> that his great geo-strategic adversary, the Chinese Communist Party, did.</p> <p>And his is not the first presidency to be marked by the conflagration of several US cities.</p> <p>Before Minneapolis, <a href="https://www.history.com/topics/1960s/1967-detroit-riots">Detroit</a> (1967), <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Los-Angeles-Riots-of-1992">Los Angeles</a> (1992) and <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/08/08/ferguson-missouri-riots-5-years-since-shooting-race-tensions-worse/1952853001/">Ferguson, Missouri</a> (2014) were all the scenes of angry protests and riots over racial tensions that still haven’t healed.</p> <p>And in the 19th century, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/science/civil-war-toll-up-by-20-percent-in-new-estimate.html">750,000 Americans were killed in a civil war</a> that was fought over whether the enslavement of African-Americans was <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/how-the-constitution-was-indeed-pro-slavery/406288/">constitutional</a>.</p> <p>Trump may not have healed racial tensions in the US during his presidency. But, like coronavirus, he did not cause them.</p> <p><strong>How Trump can blame Democrats for Minneapolis</strong></p> <p>Not unhappily for Trump, Minneapolis is a largely Democratic city in a reliably blue state. He will campaign now on the failure of Democratic state leaders to answer the needs of black voters.</p> <p>Trump will claim that decades of Democratic policies in Minnesota – including the eight years of the Obama administration – have caused Minneapolis to be one of the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/30/minneapolis-racial-inequality/">most racially unequal cities</a> in the nation.</p> <p>Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis will never be mistaken for the late, great General Douglas McArthur or great fighter General George Patton. How come all of these places that defend so poorly are run by Liberal Democrats? Get tough and fight (and arrest the bad ones). STRENGTH!</p> <p>In 2016, Trump <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-jasg-_E5M">famously asked African-Americans</a> whether Democratic leaders have done anything to improve their lives.</p> <p><em>What do you have to lose by trying something new, like Trump?</em></p> <p>He will repeat this mantra in the coming months.</p> <p>It also certainly helps that his support among Republican voters has never wavered, no matter how shocking his behaviour.</p> <p>He has enjoyed a stable <a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/coronavirus-polls/">80% approval rating</a> with GOP voters throughout the coronavirus crisis. This has helped keep his approval rating among all voters steady as the pandemic has worsened, <a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/coronavirus-polls/">hovering between 40 and 50%</a>.</p> <p>These are not terrible numbers. Yes, Trump’s leadership has contributed to a series of disasters. But if the polls are correct, he has so far avoided the kinds of catastrophe that could imperil his chances of re-election.</p> <p><strong>Why this moment is challenging for Biden</strong></p> <p>Biden should be able to make a good case to the American people at this moment that he is the more effective leader.</p> <p>But this has not yet been reflected in polls, most of which continue to give the Democrat <a href="https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/polls/president-general/">only a lukewarm advantage</a> over Trump in the election.</p> <p>The other problem is that the Democratic party remains discordant. And Biden has not yet shown a capacity to heal it.</p> <p>Race has also long been a <a href="https://www.history.com/topics/us-politics/democratic-party">source of division</a> within Biden’s party. Southern Democrats, for instance, <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/znycnrd/revision/4">were the key agents of slavery</a> in the 19th century and the segregation that followed it into the 20th.</p> <p>After the 1960s, Democrats sought to make themselves the natural home of African-American voters as the <a href="https://www.history.com/news/how-the-party-of-lincoln-won-over-the-once-democratic-south">Republican party courted</a> disaffected white Southern voters. The Democrats largely succeeded on that front – <a href="https://press.princeton.edu/ideas/why-are-blacks-democrats">the party routinely gets around 85-90% of black votes</a> in presidential elections.</p> <p>The challenge for Biden now is how to retain African-American loyalty to his party, while evading responsibility for the socio-economic failures of Democratic policies in cities like Minneapolis.</p> <p>He is also a white northerner (from Delaware). Between 1964 and 2008, <a href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-makes-southern-democrats-unique/">only three Democrats were elected president</a>. All of them were southerners.</p> <p>To compensate, Biden has had to rely on racial politics to separate himself from his primary challenger – <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/03/bernie-sanders-black-voters/607789/">Bernie Sanders struggled to channel black aspirations</a> – and from Republicans. And this has, at times, caused him to court controversy.</p> <p>In 2012, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYtEuuhFRPA">he warned African-Americans</a> that then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would put them “all back in chains”. And just over a week ago, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/05/28/heres-why-black-americans-were-mad-bidens-comment-even-if-theyd-say-same-thing-themselves/">he angered black voters</a> by suggesting those who would support Trump in the election “<a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-23/joe-biden-apologises-for-aint-black-comment/12279428">ain’t black</a>”.</p> <p>Biden is far better than Trump on racial issues and should be able to use the current crises to present himself as a more natural “consoler-in-chief”, but instead, he has appeared somewhat flatfooted and derided for being racially patronising.</p> <p>The opportunities COVID-19 and the Minneapolis unrest might afford his campaign remain elusive.</p> <p><strong>There is reason for hope</strong></p> <p>America enters the final months of the 2020 campaign in a state of despair and disrepair. The choice is between an opportunistic incumbent and a tin-eared challenger.</p> <p>But the US has faced serious challenges before – and emerged stronger. Neither the civil war in the 19th century or the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th halted the extraordinary growth in power that followed both.</p> <p>Moreover, the US constitution remains intact and federalism has undergone something of <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2020/05/04/covid-federalism/">a rebirth</a> since the start of the pandemic. And there is a new generation of younger, more diverse, national leaders being forged in the fire of crisis to help lead the recovery.</p> <p><em>Written by Timothy J. Lynch. Republished with permission of <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-minneapolis-burns-trumps-presidency-is-sinking-deeper-into-crisis-and-yet-he-may-still-be-re-elected-139739">The Conversation.</a> </em></p>

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France told to sell Mona Lisa to cover coronavirus losses

<p>France should offset its financial losses from the coronavirus pandemic by selling Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece Mona Lisa for at least €50 billion, a tech CEO has suggested.</p> <p>Stephane Distinguin, founder and CEO of tech company Fabernovel, told <em>Usbek &amp; Rica </em>magazine that the country should “sell the family jewellery” to help deal with the “unfathomable” crisis.</p> <p>“Day after day, we list the billions engulfed in this slump like children counting the fall of a stone into a well to measure its depth,” Distinguin said.</p> <p>“We are still counting, and this crisis seems unfathomable.</p> <p>“As an entrepreneur and a taxpayer, I know that these billions are not invented and that they will necessarily cost us. An obvious reflex is to sell off a valuable asset at the highest price possible, but one that is the least critical as possible to our future.”</p> <p>Distinguin said France has “a lot of paintings”, which are “easy to move and therefore to hand over”.</p> <p>He said: “In 2020, we have to get the money where it is. So sell family jewellery … The price is the crux of the matter and the main subject of controversy. The price has to be insane for the operation to make sense.”</p> <p>The 46-year-old also suggested that the 16th century Italian Renaissance painting could be “tokenised” with a form of cryptocurrency, allowing it to be shared between countries around the world.</p> <p>“It would be like a big global subscription,” he said. “Legally and technically, this solution would have many advantages: it would allow France and the Louvre to keep control of the painting.”</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WEO/Issues/2020/04/14/weo-april-2020">International Monetary Fund</a> expected France’s GDP to contract by 7.2 per cent in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Many French tourism operators also <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/tamarathiessen/2020/05/02/forget-french-travel-this-year-tourism-operators-warn/#4719c0b554bd">fear the country will remain off-limits to international visitors this year</a>.</p>

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Archie turns one! Royal baby has grown up SO fast

<p>Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, the son of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, has celebrated his first birthday on May 6.</p> <p>It is hard to believe the love-struck Duke and Duchess of Sussex became parents to their first child together a year ago, but to celebrate their beautiful family we are looking back at some of little Archie’s most memorable moments.</p> <p>Archie was born on May 6, 2019 and in just one year the toddler has already achieved incredible milestones.</p> <p>To celebrate his birthday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a video of the growing tot sitting on his mother's lap as she reads him a children's book. </p> <p>The clip was posted on behalf of Save The Children UK and seeks to help raise urgent funds for the organisation's coronavirus appeal. </p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_2A6IwBeM-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_2A6IwBeM-/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Save The Children UK (@savechildrenuk)</a> on May 6, 2020 at 4:01am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>From the most intimate moments to his highly publicised royal debuts, here are some of his most adorable moments.</p>

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Woman makes ‘monstrous’ knitted masks to encourage social distancing

<p>An Icelandic woman has promoted social distancing through a novel, innovative way: knitting.</p> <p>Knitwear designer Ýrúrarí Jóhannsdóttir has gone viral after sharing her knitted masks and other isolation creations on social media.</p> <p>The 3D masks – which feature knits of mouths, teeth and jutting tongues – have been described by fans as “grotesque”, “<a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/icelandic-knitwear-designer-tongue-masks-yrurari-johannsdottir">trippy</a>” and “<a href="https://10daily.com.au/news/a200505cmtfy/woman-makes-grotesque-knits-to-scare-people-into-social-distancing-20200505">freakish</a>”.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-captioned="" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DKJ3xgUWt/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="margin: 8px 0 0 0; padding: 0 4px;"><a style="color: #000; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none; word-wrap: break-word;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DKJ3xgUWt/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">I’ve been experimenting with some of my sweater ideas to wear on a face, always interesting to see the outcome 👽 It has been fun to see masks inspired by mine, good use of quarantine time to knit💜But a reminder again, my masks are not made for safety, knitted masks are not safe to start with! Take care 🦠❌🦠❌🦠 #mask #knitting #fashionforbankrobbers</a></p> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;">A post shared by <a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/yrurari/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank"> Ýrúrarí</a> (@yrurari) on Apr 16, 2020 at 10:00am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-4JbBOABY5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B-4JbBOABY5/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Ýrúrarí (@yrurari)</a> on Apr 12, 2020 at 3:22am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <p>The 27-year-old designer said she has always been interested in tongues because “they are kind of rude, sticky, and strange”.</p> <p>She extended her work from sweaters to face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic.</p> <p>“I didn’t really make the masks to wear,” she told <em><a href="https://mashable.com/article/knitted-face-mask-tongue-lips/">Mashable</a></em>. “In my mind they are more like wearable sculptures, not made for safety [but] more as a fun approach to the rule of keeping distance.”</p> <p>“If you look scary enough people will stay away!”</p> <p>Jóhannsdóttir said the masks promoted the idea that “using masks can be fun”.</p> <p>“Everything we put on us can also be fun if we want it to, and bringing smiles to people’s faces in times like these is also important,” she told <em><a href="https://www.vogue.com/article/icelandic-knitwear-designer-tongue-masks-yrurari-johannsdottir">Vogue</a></em>.</p> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_PcEsSAByb/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_PcEsSAByb/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Ýrúrarí (@yrurari)</a> on Apr 21, 2020 at 4:27am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote> <blockquote style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" class="instagram-media" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_aQTE0gOyo/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="12"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"></div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"></div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"></div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"></div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"></div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" rel="noopener" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/B_aQTE0gOyo/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank">A post shared by Ýrúrarí (@yrurari)</a> on Apr 25, 2020 at 9:16am PDT</p> </div> </blockquote>

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The Gates Foundation’s prophetic coronavirus pandemic simulation

<p>On 18 October last year, the Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum and the John Hopkins Centre for Health Security held a pandemic simulation exercise, with the aim of “educating senior leaders” about an adequate response to the type of crisis the planet is currently in the grips of.</p> <p>The simulation was called <a href="http://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/event201/about">Event 201</a>. Fifteen participants took part in a mock pandemic emergency board. This included representatives from the UN Foundation, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Johnson &amp; Johnson, Lufthansa and the Monetary Authority of Singapore.</p> <p>Representing Australia was ANZ board member <a href="http://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/event201/players/halton.html">Jane Halton</a>, who incidentally has been <a href="https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/morrison-shuts-down-parliament-hands-nation-corporations">appointed</a> to the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission by Scott Morrison. The NCCC is a local body of corporate representatives designed to coordinate the economy during the very real COVID-19 crisis.</p> <p>The Event 201 scenario involved a new coronavirus – a disease that causes respiratory tract infection – that developed in pigs in South America and then infected farmers. The virus spread around the world, with some people developing mild flu-like symptoms, while others perished.</p> <p>Stranger than fiction</p> <p>Watching the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoLw-Q8X174&amp;app=desktop">highlights of Event 201</a> – which took place just five and a half months ago – is eerie. Simulated “GNN” newsreels appear between footage of emergency board discussions, one of which involves an immunologist outlining that efforts to find a vaccine during the outbreak failed.</p> <p>The Gates Foundation’s Christopher Elias asserts that keeping global supply chains open would take “knowledge that only the private sector has”, while the UN could play a role coordinating the various private entities. But, it’s clear to Elias that this aspect of the response would rely upon corporations.</p> <p>The most distressing part of the highlights comes when the issue of the “overwhelming amounts of dis- and mis- information circulating over the internet” is broached. The board members go on to discuss whether internet shutdowns would be necessary to deal with fake news.</p> <p>Think about it – as we sit locked down in our homes during a real pandemic, with newly imposed restrictions on gatherings with others outside of our own households – what would it be like if the government and private business decided to close down the main mode of communications?</p> <p>Too little too late</p> <p>Event 21 led to seven key recommendations, all of which, it would seem now, came too late. These suggested that governments and business sectors should plan for a pandemic situation, which would include stockpiling medical supplies and investing in <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/should-child-vaccination-be-compulsory/">vaccination</a> development capabilities.</p> <p>The outcome of the simulated pandemic was catastrophic, with 65 million people dying in the first 18 months. The outbreak was small at first and seemed controllable. But, once it started spreading through the poor neighbourhoods of megacities, it exploded, with cases in nearly every country.</p> <p>“We have to ask, did this need to be so bad?” says a GNN mock news presenter. “Are there things we could have done in the five to ten years leading up to the pandemic that would have lessened the catastrophic consequences?”</p> <p>The presenter concludes, “We believe the answer is yes.” However, that timeframe to prepare is now lost.</p> <p><em>Written by Paul Gregoire. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-gates-foundations-prophetic-coronavirus-pandemic-simulation/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</a> </em></p>

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Make your own mask from a tea towel, t-shirt or vacuum bag

<p>The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has led to a shortage of protective face masks, leading to a number of online tutorials on how to make your own using items found around the house.</p> <p>Homemade masks offer significantly less protection than the N95 medical masks, which are made of a thick, tightly woven material that fits over the face and can stop 95 per cent of all airborne particles.</p> <p>And while many health organisations have recommended to ditch the masks unless in a medical setting, there is a good reason to think DIY masks could be effective in tackling the pandemic.</p> <p>They’ve been used extensively in countries such as Hong Kong, Mongolia and South Korea – places that have the disease largely under control.</p> <p>The World Health Organisation also does not recommend that people without the illness wear the face mask, but they’re looking at reversing their decision due to evidence from Hong Kong that it may be effective in fighting the virus.</p> <p><strong>Here’s how you can make your own at home using a kitchen towel</strong></p> <p><strong>What you will need:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Kitchen towel</li> <li>One tissue</li> <li>Masking tape</li> <li>Elastic bands</li> </ul> <p><strong>Method:</strong></p> <ol> <li>Cut both the paper towel and tissue in half and apply masking tape on each end to make sure the mask is stiff.</li> <li>Punch holes through either end of the mask and thread the elastic bands through the holes.</li> </ol> <p>Your mask is ready in two simple steps.</p> <p><strong>How to make a face mask with a t-shirt</strong></p> <p>A tutorial by YouTuber Runa Ray shows how to make a face mask with a t-shirt, no sewing required.</p> <p><strong>What you will need:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Scissors</li> <li>Pencil</li> <li>Ruler</li> <li>Unwanted t-shirt</li> </ul> <p><strong>Method:</strong></p> <ol> <li>Cut out a 16" by 4" rectangle from the middle of the t-shirt, then fold it in half, and measure four inches on either side.</li> <li>Mark the t-shirt with an even number of tassels on each side and use scissors to cut them.</li> <li>Turn the t-shirt inside out and separate the corner tassels, but tie the remaining ones in-between.</li> <li>With the remaining t-shirt material cut some ear straps using the hem of the shirt. </li> <li>Attach the straps to the remaining outer tassels and you have yourself a face mask, with no sewing involved, and using an old t-shirt.</li> </ol> <p><span><strong>How to make a face mask from vacuum cleaner bags</strong></span></p> <p><strong>What you will need:</strong></p> <ul> <li>Vacuum bag</li> <li>Paperclip</li> <li>Two rubber bands</li> <li>Stapler</li> </ul> <p><strong>Method:</strong></p> <ol> <li>Cut the bag into a rectangle. Make sure to keep all the layers together.</li> <li>With the inside of the bag facing upwards fold twice along the bottom and top.</li> <li>Fold both bottom corners of the bag.</li> <li>Get a paperclip or other thin wire and straighten it out.</li> <li>Take two rubber bands and fold the far ends around them. Staple the folds to secure them.</li> <li>Push the straightened wire through the centre of the top.</li> <li>Stretch the rubber bands around your ears to hold the mask against your face. Pinch the wire to secure around your nose.</li> </ol>

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Australian police accused of lying about use of “ineffective” facial recognition software

<p>An <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/hannahryan/clearview-ai-australia-police">online tech news source</a> recently ran a story detailing a data breach at controversial facial recognition company Clearview AI, which exposed its entire client list.</p> <p>According to the report, the list includes four Australian police organisations, comprising the Queensland Police Service, Victoria Police, South Australia Police and the Australian Federal Police.</p> <p>The leaked client list suggests that police officers have used the highly inaccurate technology in an attempt to ‘identify’ around 1000 suspects in Australia – a process which has been <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/queenslands-facial-recognition-regime-a-complete-failure/">proven over and over again</a> to lead to <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/facial-recognition-database-could-lead-to-wrongful-arrests/">the false identification and arrest of innocent persons</a>.</p> <p>Indeed, a previous trial of facial recognition technology in Queensland was ruled a ‘<a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/queenslands-facial-recognition-regime-a-complete-failure/">complete failure</a>’ – with the software misidentifying people the ‘vast majority’ of cases – and a trial in the United Kingdom in 2016/17 got it wrong in 98% of cases.</p> <p>Police had previously denied using the Clearview AI software and, despite the leak, have continued to do so – with the South Australian Police Force issuing a statement which asserts that its officers have not been using it.</p> <p>Queensland has been slightly more forthcoming, saying that facial recognition technology is one of ‘many capabilities’ available to its officers.</p> <p>Victoria Police claims the software has not been used in any ‘official capacity’, which begs the question as to why police organisations would spend large amounts of taxpayer dollars on purchase and licensing.</p> <p>The AFP has remained silent.</p> <p>Clearview AI’s programme has attracted an enormous amount of controversy worldwide, being variously labelled as ‘ineffective’, ‘wasteful’, a ‘gross breach of privacy’ and a ‘honeypot for hackers’.</p> <p>The Clearview database contains billions of images amassed from sources such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and other public websites, and the application of the software has the potential to lead to wrongful arrests, whereby innocent persons are wrongly matched to suspected offenders.</p> <p>The reports regarding the leaked client list have heightened concerns that ill-intentioned hackers will gain access to a wealth of private information and use it to engage in criminal conduct such as <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-rising-cost-of-identity-crime-in-australia/">identity theft</a>.</p> <p><strong>Privacy laws</strong></p> <p>Under current Australian privacy laws, biometric information, that is your face, fingerprints, eyes, palm, and voice is considered sensitive information.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2014C00076">Privacy Act 1988</a> (Cth) makes clear that any organisation or agency collecting this ‘sensitive’ information must first obtain consent to do so.</p> <p>However, there are exceptions to this general rule including where the information is “necessary” to prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual.</p> <p>It’s an exception many believe has been exploited by law enforcement agencies, with legal commentators suggesting it is not broad enough to encompass all of the conduct that police have been engaging in.</p> <p><strong>National surveillance</strong></p> <p>Red flags were raised last year when the Federal Government announced plans to <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/australias-future-is-nationwide-facial-recognition-surveillance/">create a national facial recognition database</a> by collecting photos from drivers’ licences and passports.</p> <p>The government justified the implementation of the database, by saying that it would both help to combat identity theft <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/the-rising-cost-of-identity-crime-in-australia/">(which is on the rise)</a> as well as be a useful tool for protecting national security, because the database would be made available to law enforcement agencies too.</p> <p>The legislation presently before parliament allows both government agencies and private businesses to access facial IDs held by state and territory traffic authorities, and passport photos held by the foreign affairs department.</p> <p>The legislation is currently stalled because of concerns about privacy implications and lack of safeguards in the proposed law.</p> <p>But most state and territory governments have already updated their driver’s licence laws in anticipation of the database after an agreement at the Council of Australian Governments in October 2017. If you’re applying for, or renewing a passport, then you are required to sign a consent form.</p> <p><strong>Facial recognition AI is unreliable</strong></p> <p>One of the most significant concerns is that AI technology is still unreliable – the benefits don’t outweigh the massive intrusion into our personal privacy. Plus, there are inherent problems with the current technology. False positives are a major issue.</p> <p>In 2016 and 2017, London’s Metropolitan Police used automated facial recognition in trials and reported that more than 98% of cases, innocent members of the public were matched to suspected criminals.</p> <p>Despite these concerns, the Home Affairs Department is impatient to implement the technology and says that facial recognition experts (humans) will work with the technology to provide more accurate outcomes.</p> <p>But that’s of cold comfort to anyone concerned about their privacy. <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/welcome-to-1984-the-governments-relentless-assault-on-democracy/">Because, as is already the case in China</a>, facial recognition can be used for mass surveillance.</p> <p>And, we’ve already seen many examples of how data breaches can occur even with appropriate legislation in place.</p> <p><strong>Data breaches in government departments</strong></p> <p>Last year, information came to light showing that <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/dozens-of-breaches-of-the-my-health-record-database-have-already-been-recorded/">data breaches of the My Health Record</a> database rose from 35 to 42 in the past financial year, despite consistent claims by the federal government that the database is safe and secure, and that the privacy of those who choose not to opt out is protected.</p> <p>In 2018, the South Australian government was forced to shut down guest access to its online land titles registry, after an unidentified overseas ‘guest user’ was able to download the personal details of more than a million Australian home owners, information that could potentially be used to develop a false identity.</p> <p>Police forces and other government organisations have repeatedly failed to <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-officers-misuse-private-information-for-personal-gain/">properly secure confidential information</a> of members of the public, and some rogue police officers have <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-officer-jokes-about-giving-victims-address-to-abusive-partner/">broken the law by releasing sensitive information</a>, putting vulnerable individuals in danger.</p> <p>Right now, the fact that Australian police forces exist on Clearview AI’s client list, and they’re not forthcoming about it should also set alarm bells ringing for all Australians.</p> <p>The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has launched an inquiry into whether the software is being employed in Australia, or if its database contains information on Australians. The commission’s final report will no doubt reveal all.</p> <p><em>Written by Sonia Hickey. Republished with permission of <a href="https://www.sydneycriminallawyers.com.au/blog/police-accused-of-lying-about-use-of-ineffective-facial-recognition-software/">Sydney Criminal Lawyers.</a></em></p>

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