Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022


African Elephant in the Room

In the movie Blood Diamond, Leonard DiCaprio explains that things can often work differently in Africa, using the acronym, T.I.A. This is Africa. Let's tweak that slightly for today's lead: This is Ambiguous. When the pandemic first hit, we were overwhelmed with stories of how bad things would get in Africa. "Into Year Three of the pandemic, new research shows there is no longer any question of whether Covid has spread widely in Africa. It has." But the death numbers have been remarkably low. Is it because of the relatively young population? Is it because of the climate or time spent outdoors? Is it because the deaths just aren't being reported? Whatever it is, solving the mystery could go a long way towards helping us solve the mysteries of Covid itself. NYT (Gift Article): Trying to Solve a Covid Mystery: Africa's Low Death Rates.

+ NextDraft Live: I'll be in discussion with DJ Patil (America's first Chief Data Scientist) at the Commonwealth Club in SF on April 18. If you're local, join us in person. If not, join us online. Tickets here.


Mad Props

"I don't think Americans fully understand what's been fed to Russians about the U.S. and the West for literally the past decade. It's been an information war — a totally one-sided information war — and it has been waged so fully and artfully that it's made a lot of what's happening now preemptively possible." WaPo: Americans may be greatly underestimating the impact of 10 years of Putin's propaganda. That propaganda is all about playing the victim card via phony claims of the West's desire to destroy the Russian way of life. (Sound familiar? It's all connected.)

+ Evan Neumann: US Capitol riot suspect gets asylum in Belarus. "The 48-year-old first settled in Ukraine, before reaching Belarus where he asked for asylum - claiming he faced 'political persecution' in the US." (See above parenthetical.)

+ "Former Trump adviser Paul Manafort was removed from a plane at Miami International Airport before it took off for Dubai because he carried a revoked passport." (See above parenthetical.)

+ "Putin faces a dangerous question with destabilizing consequences for the West and the world beyond: How does he want to lose this war? What more of Russia's treasury, economy, and people—and, not least of all, his own political power—is he willing to risk to either grind down Ukraine or preserve his hold on the country he's led for nearly a quarter-century? Meanwhile, half a world away, Biden faces his own, fraught choice—how to punish and defeat Russia without risking a war he's clearly chosen not to fight and hold the line on American aid in the face of popular and political pressure to escalate." Garrett Graff in Wired: Putin, Biden Face a Dangerous Choice: How Does Russia Want to Lose?

+ So far Putin has answered the question of how he plans to lose: In the worst way possible. That's true for his own soldiers. AP: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead in Ukraine. And, of course, it's even more true in Ukraine. NYT: Russia's Attacks on Civilian Targets Have Obliterated Everyday Life in Ukraine.

+ U.S. image soars across NATO countries. (I can't imagine what changed their minds...)

+ Biden is on the way to Europe for a NATO summit, Ukraine has retaken some territory from Russian troops, NATO is sending more troops to eastern Europe. Here's the latest from BBC.

+ I'll be donating $20K to three worthy organizations fighting for truth and safety in Ukraine and Russia later this week. I'll report back with the details. In the meantime, wear the new NextDraft colors proudly and be a part of the effort.


Computer Screening

"Artificial intelligence algorithms are everywhere in healthcare. They sort through patients' data to predict who will develop medical conditions like heart disease or diabetes, they help doctors figure out which people in an emergency room are the sickest, and they screen medical images to find evidence of diseases. But even as AI algorithms become more important to medicine, they're often invisible to people receiving care." The Verge: Here's How an Algorithm Guides a Medical Decision.

+ NYT: Brain Implant Allows Fully Paralyzed Patient to Communicate.


Rental Health

From WaPo (Gift Article): Rent-a-stranger: This Japanese man makes a living showing up and doing nothing. "Their near-silent lunch lasted about 45 minutes. Shirai ordered her favorite dish and intermittently asked questions. She shared memories of her marriage and showed him a photo from the wedding. He nodded and gave curt answers, sometimes a dry laugh. He never initiated conversation." (This is exactly how my wife would describe a lunch with me.)

+ Vice: I Get Paid to Go on Fake Dates With People to Prepare Them for Real Ones.


Extra, Extra

Madeleine Albright: "As secretary of state, she played a key role in persuading Clinton to go to war against the Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic over his treatment of Kosovar Albanians in 1999. 'My mindset is Munich,' she said frequently, referring to the German city where the Western allies abandoned her homeland to the Nazis." Madeleine Albright, the first female US secretary of state, dies at 84. Albright's most recent book could not be more on point. Fascism: A Warning.

+ Graham Crackers: This week has again proven that SCOTUS confirmations should be viewed as hearings to determine who should still be allowed to remain a senator. The low point so far (maybe, that's a bold statement) was Racist Baby Ted Cruz asking Jackson if she thinks babies are racist. Today, Lindsay Graham is trying to beat Cruz's asinine-ism by harassing Jackson about the Kavanaugh hearings. Why? Because he already badgered her about religion yesterday. (The absence of a lightning bolt striking Lindsey Graham is all the evidence you need that there's no god.) Here's the latest.

+ Ash Tray: "While the Australian media has already described this as a 'shock announcement,' it is anything but. Even as Barty was dominating the Australian Open in January, rumors whipped through the players' lounge that she might gather the trophy and mic-drop retire. Here was a player who had already previously retired as a teenager, mostly for the simple reason that tennis no longer held joy for her." SI: Ash Barty's Abrupt Retirement Confirms Her Evident Authenticity. (She's loaded, she's already a legend in Australia, and rumor has it, she's pretty good at golf. Also, she's won exactly three majors, making it an Ash Tray!)

+ Yachtzee! Bored Ape Yacht Club creator raises $450 million to build an NFT metaverse. (This month we've learned that $450 million isn't much for a yacht.)

+ Okta Gone?: "A hacking group that previously took responsibility for attacks on Nvidia and Microsoft claimed Monday that it had compromised Okta, which provides 'single sign-on' identity services to thousands of companies."

+ Shit Doesn't Just Happen: "Russia and neighboring Belarus are among the world's top suppliers of crop nutrients, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has only added to the global run-up caused by supply snags and output woes." Bloomberg: Coffee Farmers Face ‘Mega Emergency' as Fertilizer Costs Soar. (I always figured coffee consumption and fertilizer creation were a circular market.)


Bottom of the News

"Known as jimmies, jazzies, freckles, nonpareils, or hundreds and thousands, among other names, these specks of corn syrup and coloring are a convenient solution for bakers looking for fuss-free decoration. Planted on frosting, bloomed in batter, crusted atop cookies, or scattered on toast, the nutritionless, mostly flavorless, tiny doodads that mimic absolutely nothing found in nature provide outsize comfort with egalitarian underpinnings. And they aren't going away anytime soon." We've Underestimated Sprinkles.

+ Machu Picchu: Inca site 'has gone by wrong name for over 100 years.'