Let’s just mandate it: “NSA Warns Cellphone Location Data Could Pose National-Security Threat”

The National Security Agency issued new guidance on Tuesday for military and intelligence-community personnel, warning about the risks of cellphone location tracking through apps, wireless networks and Bluetooth technology.

The detailed warning from one of the nation’s top intelligence agencies is an acknowledgment that Silicon Valley’s practice of collecting and selling cellphone location information for advertising and marketing purposes poses a serious national-security risk to many inside the government….

Source: NSA Warns Cellphone Location Data Could Pose National-Security Threat – WSJ

In December 2019, the FAA released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking requiring mandatory radio-based Remote Identification and tracking of all hobby radio controlled aircraft weighing more than 250 grams (about 1/2 pound). The Final Rule is expected in December of 2021. The NPRM itself eventually ends the radio control model aircraft hobby that currently exists, makes it legal to fly only certified, manufactured drones that are tracked in real time. The primary purpose is to clear the air space above your home and turn it over to AmazonGoogleUPS. The FAA asserts all rights to the airspace in your back yard, for example.

Every remote controlled aircraft would be required by Federal regulation to connect to the Internet and log its activities in an Internet cloud database, in real time. Those providing the cloud databases may offer them for free in exchange for who knows what – but the FAA itself proposed they might collect photo images and telemetry – such as WiFi and Bluetooth communications collected by the craft.

In effect, the FAA mandates a nationwide low level altitude surveillance network of potentially millions of drones collecting data in real time and logging it in data bases – that may as well be located in China.

Meanwhile, the US DoD and the US Department of the Interior banned the use of Chinese made drones over fears of their use for espionage.

While the left hand bans drones from collecting data, the right hand mandates that all drones must collect potentially invasive data on behalf of foreign organizations.

We know that U.S. firms and others are collecting massive amounts of private data through the use of apps on our smart phones. Google itself collects your location data, even when you turn location services off.

The primary business function of the Internet is surveillance to be used for many purposes.

Wow: “Exposure to common cold coronaviruses can teach the immune system to recognize SARS-CoV-2”

Sounds like we should immediately begin distributing common cold corona viruses as a protective measure, right?

“We have now proven that, in some people, pre-existing T cell memory against common cold coronaviruses can cross-recognize SARS-CoV-2, down to the exact molecular structures,” says LJI Research Assistant Professor Daniela Weiskopf, Ph.D., who co-led the new study with LJI Professor Alessandro Sette, Dr. Biol. Sci. “This could help explain why some people show milder symptoms of disease while others get severely sick.”

Source: Exposure to common cold coronaviruses can teach the immune system to recognize SARS-CoV-2

More good news: “Coronavirus Antibody Testing Shows Lower Fatality Rate For Infection”

An IFR of 0.5 to 1% is  much greater than seasonal influenza and should be compared to the IFR of influenza (not the CFR – CFR and IFR are not the same thing).

Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared.

The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person’s blood rather than the virus itself.

The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous.

“The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%,” says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

That’s in contrast with death rates of 5% or more based on calculations that included only people who got sick enough to be diagnosed with tests that detect the presence of virus in a person’s body.

Source: Coronavirus Antibody Testing Shows Lower Fatality Rate For Infection : Shots – Health News : NPR

The IFR varies by age – ranging from .1% for the young to 10% for older adults. This means the number of deaths may vary quite a bit between states based on age demographics, economics and other factors.

An interesting secret: up to 75% of seasonal influenza may also be asymptomatic. The CDC acknowledges asymptomatic influenza on one of their web pages too. The asymptomatic features of Covid-19 may not be unusual, contrary to the implications of media coverage.

I am an idiot, have no expertise in any of this, and this post is for entertainment purposes only

What if you could be convicted with secret evidence you cannot see nor contest?

All defendants have a right to review the evidence before them. When software applications produce a conclusion, then the software source code must be re-viewable by the defense.

The government argues it can use secret software against a defendant – software that may very well be defective (think Neil Ferguson’s Imperial College London’s secret disease modeling code that ignores all modern software engineering practices).

Can secret software be used to generate key evidence against a criminal defendant?

Source: EFF and ACLU Tell Federal Court that Forensic Software Source Code Must Be Disclosed | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Good news: “WHO Says Studies Put Coronavirus Mortality Rate at 0.6%”

While 3x to 6x greater than a bad flu year, that is much better than the 2.6%-3.4% range estimated last spring:

Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s top epidemiologist on Covid-19, said several studies estimate the mortality rate of the novel coronavirus at 0.6%. “That may not sound like a lot, but it is quite high,” she said. Van Kerkhove and Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, spoke Monday at a press briefing in Geneva. (Excerpts) (Source: Bloomberg)

Source: WHO Says Studies Put Coronavirus Mortality Rate at 0.6% – Bloomberg

Hyperventilating: “The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles”

Sort of correct but said with an axe to grind approach:

The widespread view that fossil fuels are “dirty” and renewables such as wind and solar energy and electric vehicles are “clean” has become a fixture of mainstream media and policy makers of all persuasions. But, in the case of EVs, the dirty secrets of “clean energy” should seem apparent to all.

Source: The Dirty Secrets Of ‘Clean’ Electric Vehicles

  1. EV batteries require mining of raw materials, many of which come from economically poor countries with abusive labor practices. Rather than criticize what is, this seems to be an opportunity to create economic opportunities and as their economy grows, to address local corruption and labor practices.
  2. The author correctly notes that much of the life time energy consumption in a vehicle occurs during the manufacturing stage. Switching from gas-powered to electric-powered does not have as large an impact as many think. I have previously written about that. You are generally better off continuing to put more miles on your existing car, especially if you already drive a small or fuel efficient vehicle.
  3. For many EVs, the underlying power source is a fossil-fueled power plant. That is the case where I live – where 70% of our utility’s power generation is from (mostly) coal and some natural gas. That’s why we chose to put in solar PV at our house rather than purchase an EV. Our solar PV directly offsets that 70% of our local power company’s fossil fuel. And because we have become so economical with our electricity usage, we have a sufficient surplus of solar PV to recharge a future EV on site.
  4. EV subsidies are regressive. This is absolutely true. It is surprising the number of regressive tax policies that exist. For example, health insurance is deductible by employers – and the higher the pay of the employees, the greater the value of the tax subsidy. However, for many current EVs, the tax subsidy has already gone away once the manufacturer produced a certain number of vehicles.

The author of the above is not really wrong, but is hyperventilating with an axe to grind. They are real issues but most are fixable.

Economically good news: “Coronavirus cases ease in Sun Belt states as nationwide deaths climb”

Called this about 2 weeks ago on my private blog. Officially the drop is said to be due to policy choices but the association between policy choices and outcomes are frequently random.

Across the nation, daily new Covid-19 cases have declined in recent days, driving the seven-day average of new cases down more than 5% compared with a week ago, according to Johns Hopkins data. Health officials have struggled for weeks to halt outbreaks in the American South and West, shuttering businesses and pleading with residents to follow social distancing guidelines and to wear face coverings.

Source: Coronavirus cases ease in Sun Belt states as nationwide deaths climb

I have ideas – supported by published research – why these trends are playing out this way. I suspect the hot spots will migrate to a few other locations too – and each will play out in a similar time line. But I keep these to myself as I am not in health care or biological sciences- therefore it is de facto required that I note that I am an idiot, have no expertise in any of this, and this post is for entertainment purposes only. (Public health people, on the other hand, are allowed to comment on economics, business, policy without any expertise and without disclaimers. Go figure?)

No: Should workers engage in political activism on the job?

There are news stories, at least in my state, of workers protesting or striking against their employer for not being permitted to wear political advocacy buttons or t-shirts or hats on the job. This applies to both customer facing and non-customer facing workers, all though most such workers are in customer facing positions.

At first glance, these activities seem innocuous. But there are numerous problems when companies begin staking out political positions.

First, and most obvious, is that many customers may disagree with the political positions – even to the point of being offended and taking their business elsewhere.

Second, not all employees may agree with the political positions – and the advocacy of politics in the work place may lead to not merely uncomfortable positions for those who may hold a minority position but may lead to a hostile work environment.

Third, is appropriate to use the brand name of your employer to promote your own political advocacy? How does this influence the buyer’s perception of the company’s brand? Note – some companies actively engage in “cause marketing” – think of outdoor equipment companies that promote environmental initiatives. Their goal is to specifically associate their brand with environmentalism. This is a managed process intended to deliver benefits to the brand. But consider if the employees decided, while on the job, to promote an initiative to develop a vacant plot of land – because it would increase the value of the employee’s homes in that neighborhood. This create a peculiar association with a brand associated with environmental stewardship and may damage the value of the brand.

Fourth, where do we draw a line? Is some politics okay but other politics is not okay? Does the employer get to decide which politics are “approved” and which are not – thereby effectively giving an “in kind” donation to one political party or advocacy group?

Is politics okay by upper management who have the ability to influence the future work opportunities of employees who may agree or disagree?

Here is an example of an extreme situation. But it is a real situation that occurred at a business I once worked at: the general manager of our division and his wife were co-owners of a major league sports team.

The team wanted the government to build them a 90+% publicly funded sports palace, otherwise known as a luxury stadium. An initiative to increase taxes to pay for this stadium, whose primary beneficiary was the team owners (which were granted monopoly on the sport in the metro area), was on the ballot.

It was not a secret that the general manager – who ultimately had hiring, firing, promotion and pay authority over everyone in the group – co-owned the sports team. Everyone knew that.

The problem was the email messages the day before the election reminding us to vote on the important ballot initiative the next day, and including something to the effect of “you will know how to vote!”

Gee, any pressure on how we were supposed to vote? (HR got involved after the election and said this was wrong but besides being too late, it is unclear that there were any consequences for the general manager.)

The question then becomes – if we allow some politicking on the job, where and how do we draw a line?

Is it okay for some employees to engage in politicking on the job but not others?

Is it okay for some employees provided their political message is politically correct or politically popular or approved by some other authority? Who gets to decide?

The best course of action is that politics stays out of the work place. Pursue political activities on your own time.

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