Economics Science Society Technology

The Reconn Reader: 22 May, 2020

Each week, I share some of the most interesting articles I’ve come across in the past seven days. Here is this week’s selection. Inclusion does not mean endorsement. -CA

World & Politics

Countries should seize the moment to flatten the climate curve

Barcelona’s much-admired “superblocks,” for example, do more than just remove cars from chunks Take carbon-pricing first. Long cherished by economists (and The Economist), such schemes use the power of the market to incentivise consumers and firms to cut their emissions, thus ensuring that the shift from carbon happens in the most efficient way possible. The timing is particularly propitious because such prices have the most immediate effects when they tip the balance between two already available technologies. In the past it was possible to argue that, although prices might entrench an advantage for cleaner gas over dirtier coal, renewable technologies were too immature to benefit. But over the past decade the costs of wind and solar power have tumbled. A relatively small push from a carbon price could give renewables a decisive advantage—one which would become permanent as wider deployment made them cheaper still. There may never have been a time when carbon prices could achieve so much so quickly. (The Economist)

The deterioration of US-China ties has clearly alarmed Xi and his top aides. On April 8, the Chinese leader issued an unusually stark warning that “we must get ready for the worst-case scenarios” in light of unprecedented external adversity and challenges, according to Xinhua.

While the state news agency did not elaborate on what Xi meant by worst-case scenarios, a recent study by a Chinese government-backed think tank offered some hints. (South China Morning Post)

America’s Opportunity in the Middle East

At the same time, it will be important to balance anxiety with reassurance, if the Gulf countries are to be induced to take part in a serious diplomatic effort. Even while beginning to shrink the U.S. military footprint and pursue diplomacy with Iran, Washington must show that it is serious about helping Saudi Arabia and other regional partners defend their territory against missiles, drones, fast ships, and attacks—digital and physical—to critical infrastructure. It can also press European allies to reinvigorate a genuinely multilateral effort to secure vital waterways. (Foreign Affairs)

Post-pandemic reconstruction: Airbus can serve as an investment model for Europe

If in 2008 Europe had remembered the lesson of Airbus, instead of insisting on a frenzied austerity policy, it would have understood that prosperity was associated with the ability to enter emerging sectors and – when it was struggling to chase the United States – it should have invested to enhance its human and technological resources. China, which also started from much further back than Europe, understood this well: for each American giant, it tried to create national companies that, at a minimum, competed with US rivals to serve its internal market, with the aim of also becoming a world leading company. Companies such as Alibaba, Huawei, Tencent and Baidu are now keen to improve their positions in existing products and to establish themselves in emerging ones such as artificial intelligence. In Europe, we have not even managed to get a fair amount of taxes from the big tech companies. (London School of Economics)

Business & Economics

Why Ford, Chanel and other companies pitch in during a crisis – without the government ordering them to

While producing the segment, Olbermann thought to himself, “If NBC doesn’t fire me because of this, and I don’t get thrown into the back of a black car headed for Gitmo or something, I’ll consider myself lucky.”

Instead, Olbermann said, Griffin appeared the next day in his office and informed him that his ratings had shot up 50 percent. The anti-Rumsfeld segment had gone viral, Griffin told him, on a new form of social media called YouTube. Could Olbermann do a “special comment” every show? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Coronavirus pandemic accelerates shift in MBA market

“This is probably going to cost us more money than giving back cash [in the form of tuition fee refunds],” Josep Franch, Esade’s dean says. “But changes to the MBA programme have to be more than a question of rebalancing finances. We have to change our approach and one way is to offer life-long learning.” (Financial Times )

Farewell for now to a golden age of drinking

Young concludes her book with the question that weighed heavy on the public’s consciousness at the time: what shall we do with our daughters? This presents us with both ‘the sense of patriarchal Lockdown and its aftermath leaves craft firms most exposed. Some have been bought by industry giants; abi now owns Goose Island and Camden Town Brewery. But many still sell from their own small premises, making it harder to attract social-distancing customers. Even in good times many barely covered their costs. Being small, they have less leverage to force their wares onto supermarket shelves. Some will either be sold or sluiced down the drain. Inevitably, the industry will lose some of its creative fizz. (The Economist)

Did coronavirus lay bare inequalities? Not to those who were monitoring them before.

Being part of a monetary union may have allowed the Bundesbank to become more dogmatic, knowing that the ecb will nevertheless act to avoid crisis. Despite its reputation for being uncompromising before the euro, it was in fact pragmatic from time to time, notes Adam Posen of tThose living in this country who are unable to fully experience the American Dream were attempting to draw attention to these issues for years before the first case of the novel coronavirus appeared stateside. And some of the experts closest to the issue are doubtful that revealing those inequalities to more people will lead to efforts to decrease them. (Washington Post)

Science & Technology

Researchers: Nearly Half Of Accounts Tweeting About Coronavirus Are Likely Bots

These concerns notwithstanding, graduates who’ve started paying off their ISAs say they weigh less heavily than loans. Charlotte Herbert financed her senior year at Purdue with an income share a”People often refer to bots when describing everything from automated account activity to individuals who would prefer to be anonymous for personal or safety reasons, or avoid a photo because they’ve got strong privacy concerns,” the Twitter spokesman said, adding that describing an account as a bot can be deployed by “those in positions of political power to tarnish the views of people who may disagree with them or online public opinion that’s not favorable.” (NPR)

China’s Got a New Plan to Overtake the U.S. in Tech

It’s unlikely that U.S companies will benefit much from the tech-led stimulus and in some cases they stand to lose existing business. Earlier this year when the country’s largest telecom carrier China Mobile awarded contracts for 37 billion yuan in 5G base stations, the lion’s share went to Huawei and other Chinese companies. Sweden’s Ericsson got only a little over 10% of the business in the first four months. In one of its projects, Digital China will help the northeastern city of Changchun swap out American cloud computing staples IBMOracle and EMC with home-grown technology. (Bloomberg)

The Confessions of Marcus Hutchins, the Hacker Who Saved the Internet

Beyond all of that, he was tormented by the truth: Despite all the talk of his heroics, he knew that he had, in fact, done exactly what he was accused of. A feeling of overwhelming guilt had set in the moment he first regained access to the internet and checked his Twitter mentions a month after his arrest. “All of these people are writing to the FBI to say ‘you’ve got the wrong guy.’ And it was heartbreaking,” Hutchins says. “The guilt from this was a thousand times the guilt I’d felt for Kronos.” He says he was tempted to publish a full confession on his blog, but was dissuaded by his lawyers. (WIRED)

COVID-19: What the Autopsies Reveal

“The reality is we are seen by many as a source of the problem, and we’re still an obstacle to solving iPathologists are starting to get a closer look at the damage that COVID-19 does to the body by carefully examining the internal organs of people who have died from the novel coronavirus. (Scientific American)

History and Culture

Britain’s Historic Castles Face “Armageddon” as Coronavirus Torpedoes Tourist Season

“We don’t all live as is portrayed by Downton Abbey,” said Richard Compton from his home office at Newby Hall in North Yorkshire. (He would know: The real Lord Grantham and Lady Mary were his ancestors.) “In fact, I didn’t have anybody who lives like that. Now, it’s very much hands-on.” (Vanity Fair)

Ms. Norton painstakingly describes the colonists’ emerging opposition to the imported tea. The Gandhasri advanced to another round in the bee with the Yiddish-origin word “yiddishkeit” (Jewishness). In a standard system for transliterating Yiddish words, it’s spelled “yidishkayt.” However, a Yiddish culture organization in Los Angeles spells it “Yiddishkayt.” These spellings represent different ideologies regarding Yiddish and its relationship to German. And many who use them believe wholeheartedly that only their spelling is correct. (The Conversation)

Humanizing the coronavirus as an invisible enemy is human nature

The assumption that persons and features of persons may be present is spontaneous and irrepressible. For example, 16th-century Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo painted a series of faces composed of various objects. In one work, “Winter,” you can’t help seeing a face in a tree stump, perhaps reflecting a face that the artist had imagined in a real stump. It is virtually impossible not to see the face emerging from Arcimboldo’s assemblage of objects. (The Conversation)

When the Plague Came to Athens

This most “calamitous and awfully fatal visitation,” one “almost too grievous for human nature to endure,” battered not just the physical body but also the body politic. The cascading number of cases overwhelmed the city’s institutions. Traditional burial rites were quickly abandoned, with the streets and the temples piled high with the bodies of the dying and the dead. Those yet alive, shattered by the enormity of the event, “became utterly careless of everything, whether sacred or profane.” With the eclipse of the “fear of gods or law of men,” anarchy became the rule as men “calmly ventured on what they had formerly done only in a corner.” (Foreign Affairs)

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