A massive new accounting of the health of humans on Earth, collating and inferring stats on hundreds of diseases and injuries across 204 nations, has mostly good news. People are healthier, and they stay that way for longer. The bad news: That’s not true if those people are poor, are people of color, live in the United States, and there’s a pandemic.
Then they’re screwed.
The ongoing work of thousands of international researchers, the Global Burden of Disease project is based at the University of Washington—it’s a big part of the work of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which you might remember from its hyper-pessimistic but highly motivating models of the coronavirus pandemic earlier in the year. With GBD, that modeling experience fills in the gaps from countries that don’t gather all the same data, but overall the work slurps in all kinds of epidemiological and health outcome numbers from governments and health care organizations and tabulates who gets what illness by age and sex. That’s 286 causes of death, 369 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories, with numbers going back to 1990. The latest bolus of data, published in the medical journal The Lancet, brings that up through 2019. (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is the major source of funding.)
In a way, the Global Disease Burden report is a blast from the past, a look at the health of a planet now gone—the best of Before Times and the worst of Before Times. Chronic diseases were undermining the gains of modern medicine and public health. But 10 months into a pandemic, the GBD report is a map to the vulnerabilities that COVID-19 would exploit. It's also a laser-pointer showing the way to a brighter timeline.
Overall, the things that kill the most people aren’t communicable diseases like COVID-19. The number-one killer worldwide is high blood pressure; number two is disease related to tobacco use. In fact, everything on the top-10 list is the same population-scale stuff that takes systemic change to fix. That’s air pollution; nutritional gaps that lead to diabetes, obesity, and heart disease; and alcohol abuse. Childhood and maternal mortality still sneaks into the top 10 worldwide, too.
Smoking has actually declined over the past decade, while “metabolic risks”—obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol—have gone in the other direction. Together those four were responsible for 26.9 million deaths in 2019 and nearly 20 percent of what the GBD report describes as health loss worldwide. That’s loss of life, but also loss of healthy years at the end of life, a statistic captured by death-adjusted life years, or DALYs. That number has gone up 50 percent since 1990.
Of course, as the GBD authors note, these effects vary geographically. The nutritional and tobacco effects are worse in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Their Oceania group suffers most from malnutrition and air pollution; in sub-Saharan Africa, the worst things are malnutrition and lack of access to clean water and sanitation. “It shows a global crisis of chronic diseases,” says Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at IHME and one of the GBD’s authors, “and quite honestly a failure of our public health system to deal with these rapidly increasing risk factors that are preventable, that are making our population sick, killing a lot of us, and causing a lot of health emergencies.”
But the really interesting breakdown is along economic lines. Lower-income countries are actually doing a better job of reducing DALYs than middle- and high-income ones like the US. And the burden of illness in the US falls disproportionately on poor people and people who aren’t white. “In the United States, when you compare us to the rest of our peers—the countries who are very rich, similar to us—we do poorly,” Mokdad says. “Very poorly.”
After 50 years of declines in cardiovascular disease in the US, those numbers are going back up. Mortality for mothers and kids under 5, typically higher in low-income countries, is 6.5 per 1,000 live births in the US. It’s 4.9 across other rich countries. In Australia—like the US, a newish country with a large indigenous population and a majority of English speakers—it’s 3.6. Healthy life expectancy, the number of years people live without disability, is near 86 in Japan; in the US it’s 65.5. (People in the United States live pretty long lives, into their late seventies, but their lives are less fun for the last few years.)
These numbers are all from 2019—before the pandemic. As the Lancet editors note in an accompanying editorial, those statistics are also how COVID-19 turned the US into a country with one of the highest rates of infection and death in the world. Those metabolic disorders preferentially affect the poor and people of color. Poor people and people of color are also, because of their often precarious economic positions in the US, less likely to be able to work at home and more likely to be “essential workers,” with more exposure to COVID-19. “They happen to be people of color. They happen to have more chronic conditions. They delay medical care, they don’t have insurance, they don’t have money, and they don’t have access,” Mokdad says. “They’re more exposed. They have more risk factors. And they’re more likely to die.” The diseases and disorders they are most likely to have are also the exact comorbidities that make COVID-19 more severe, or fatal. They are, literally and metaphorically, the nation’s preexisting conditions.
This is an especially torqued kind of screwing because it didn’t have to be this way. It doesn't happen in societies with well-built social and medical safety nets. “If you have fewer assets, lower income, less wealth, less housing, are a person of color, you are less likely to be able to work from home,” says Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean of the Boston University School of Public Health. “So there was a gap, a disparity in risk of acquiring COVID. That is a reflection of greater exposure.”
Those same people are also more likely to have the chronic conditions that the Global Burden of Disease singles out—because of poverty, lack of universal health care, lack of access to higher-quality food, and a public health system defunded, by some calculations, to the tune of $4.5 billion before COVID-19 was even a twinkle in a bat’s eye. “Your risk of dying if you have no underlying comorbidity is less than 0.1 percent,” Galea says. “People with lower socioeconomic position and people of color had more risk. In some respects, it’s that simple.”
To paraphrase a famous book, that is one hell of a catch. The virus that causes COVID-19 would always have been a deadly one. But fewer people in poverty, fewer people with the conditions that turned out to be dangerous comorbidities, and a better health care system that focused on prevention rather than magic-bullet cures would have meant that the same deadly virus would have killed fewer people. “Why did COVID become the problem it did to begin with?” Galea asks. “One, we have historically underinvested in the public health systems needed to actually keep us healthy. And two, we have underinvested in the social and economic conditions that create a healthy world.”
And the catch gets catchier. Earlier this week in an <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullart<a href=https://arstechnica.com/?p=1715475>Read More – Source</a></p>_
Google suspends ‘free speech’ app Parler
Google has suspended “free speech” social network Parler from its Play Store over its failure to remove “egregious content”.
Parler styles itself as “unbiased” social media and has proved popular with people banned from Twitter.
But Google said the app had failed to remove posts inciting violence.
Apple has also warned Parler it will remove the app from its App Store if it does not comply with its content-moderation requirements.
On Parler, the app’s chief executive John Matze said: “We won’t cave to politically motivated companies and those authoritarians who hate free speech!”
Launched in 2018, Parler has proved particularly popular among supporters of US President Donald Trump and right-wing conservatives. Such groups have frequently accused Twitter and Facebook of unfairly censoring their views.
While Mr Trump himself is not a user, the platform already features several high-profile contributors following earlier bursts of growth in 2020.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz boasts 4.9 million followers on the platform, while Fox News host Sean Hannity has about seven million.
It briefly became the most-downloaded app in the United States after the US election, following a clampdown on the spread of election misinformation by Twitter and Facebook.
However, both Apple and Google have said the app fails to comply with content-moderation requirements.
Analysis: Necessary or draconian action?
By Shayan Sardarizadeh, BBC Monitoring
For months, Parler has been one of the most popular social media platforms for right-wing users.
As major platforms began taking action against viral conspiracy theories, disinformation and the harassment of election workers and officials in the aftermath of the US presidential vote, the app became more popular with elements of the fringe far-right.
This turned the network into a right-wing echo chamber, almost entirely populated by users fixated on revealing examples of election fraud and posting messages in support of attempts to overturn the election outcome.
In the days preceding the Capitol riots, the tone of discussion on the app became significantly more violent, with some users openly discussing ways to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s victory by Congress.
Unsubstantiated allegations and defamatory claims against a number of senior US figures such as Chief Justice John Roberts and Vice-President Mike Pence were rife on the app.
Google and Apple say they are taking necessary action to ensure violent rhetoric is not promoted on their platforms.
However, to those increasingly concerned about freedom of speech and expression on online platforms, it represents another example of draconian action by major tech companies which threatens internet freedom.
This is a debate which is certain to continue beyond the Trump presidency.
In a statement, Google confirmed it had suspended Parler from its Play Store, saying: “Our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence.
“In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app’s listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues.”
Apple has warned Parler it will be removed from the App Store on Saturday in a letter published by Buzzfeed News.
It said it had seen “accusations that the Parler app was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate” the attacks on the US Capitol on 6 January.
Mr Matze said Parler had “no way to organise anything” and pointed out that Facebook groups and events had been used to organise action.
But Apple said: “Our investigation has found that Parler is not effectively moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users in direct violation of your own terms of service.”
“We won’t distribute apps that present dangerous and harmful content.”
In a related development, Google has kicked Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast off YouTube, saying it had repeatedly violated the platform’s rules.
The ex-White House aide’s channel had more than 300,000 subscribers.
“In accordance with our strikes system, we have terminated Steve Bannon’s channel ‘War room’ and one associated channel for repeatedly violating our Community Guidelines,” Google said in a statement.
“Any channel posting new videos with misleading content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential election in violation of our policies will receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.”
The action was taken shortly after the channel posted an interview with Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, in which he blamed the Democrats for the rioting on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
One anti-misinformation group said the action was long overdue after “months of Steve Bannon calling for revolution and violence”.
“The truth is YouTube should have taken down Steve Bannon’s account a long time ago and they shouldn’t rely on the labour of extremism researchers to moderate the content on their platform,” said Madeline Peltz, Senior Researcher at Media Matters for America.
Read from source: https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-55598887
20 years of tech with Jeff: From green iMacs and DVDs to the iPhone era
When I started covering technology here two decades ago, I didn’t own a cellphone, nor did my company deem it in their interests to buy me one.
My tenure at USA TODAY pre-dates text messages, soundbars, talking speakers, QR codes, video chat, Uber, DoorDash, Zoom calls, YouTube, Wi-Fi, affordable flat-screen TVs….you get the idea.
So many changes in such a short period of time! This is my last column for USA TODAY as your Talking Tech columnist. Let’s say goodbye by celebrating how far we’ve come through the years.
My stint started in 2000 – I began at USA TODAY earlier, covering entertainment – at a time when we spent a lot of time talking about the big three tech companies: AOL, Yahoo and Microsoft. AOL had just shocked the world by buying Time Warner for $165 billion. (You know how well that turned out. But I digress.)
We did use computers, yes indeed, mostly desktops, and they were Windows machines with black-and-white monitors. We weren’t online; we went online, with a phone line attached to our computers. You know, the type we used on our landlines. Remember them?
Apple back then had less than 3% market share. It wouldn’t start its evolution into the world’s most valuable $2 trillion company until 2001, when it introduced the iPod MP3 music player and helped bring digital music to the masses. This is after the short-lived Napster popularized MP3s by showing how easy it was to copy licensed music. In 2003, the iPod shifted into a mainstream product when CEO Steve Jobs (who rejoined the company in 1997) opened it up to be used on Windows computers with the iTunes music store, the first easy to use, legitimate avenue for buying music, back then at 99 cents a song. Streaming and the celestial jukebox was a far off dream.
We started Talking Tech in 2006 as a weekly, ahead-of-its-time video series, produced bicoastally on two webcams. The first episode – with my former partner, Edward C. Baig – was a review of the Flip Video camera. Remember that one, kids?
By 2010, Flip was soon to be gone, as Apple introduced the iPhone 4, the first iPhone with a decent camera. Kodak became a memory, Canon, Nikon, Olympus and other mainstays of the camera business saw their sales tumble, as people preferred the camera that was in their pocket, their phone.
But I have to admit, I never foresaw just how great the smartphone cams would become. I always loved using them, but there was a stigma to “cellphone video.” Now we can shoot 4K video that looks nearly as good as what you get from a traditional camera, mostly due to computational photography tricks. But I’m not complaining. Have you seen my iPhone sunsets?
Then there’s Google and Facebook.
It was in 2000 that Yahoo handed over its search keys to a scrappy startup that said it had a method for more effective online searches. From there, we got Google stepping out onto its own in 2003 by sending people to its website and popularizing the verb, “Google It.” We got Google Maps (remember life without it?), Gmail (free e-mail without being tied to our internet provider), Google Translate, Google Photos and so many other features that I don’t think we could live without today.
That’s the good side.
There’s also Google tracking our every move, in order to put personalized ads in front of us everywhere we go, and saying goodbye to our privacy. Google will claim that much of the privacy invasion is “opt-in” and that we agreed to it when we signed up for services. But who remembers doing that?
Facebook took the snooping to an even greater level. But today’s column is about celebrating tech. So let’s bypass the misinformation and online rage that erupted from the social network and instead just give props to a site that reconnected some 2 billion people with old friends and family. I announced my pending exit on my newsletter, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. You know where I got the lion’s share of responses? Facebook, hands down.
Amazon. Who believed you could order anything you ever wanted with one click, and have it arrive the next day? By 2001 Amazon had announced its first profit, but it was more recently that we saw Amazon really showcase what was it was to become, by acquiring Whole Foods and launching Amazon Fresh, the supermarket with a radical cart that automatically tallied up your purchases, launching the smart speaker craze with Echo and Alexa and being a dominant force in streaming with Fire TV.
But Amazon missed out on phones. Google got in early, in 2008, with the Android operating system, which it grew by giving it away for free to companies like Samsung, LG and Huawei. That business model would enable Android to claim a whopping 85% market share, where it’s featured on so many low-cost phones.
If I had to pick the most influential tech device of my generation, there’s no hesitation. It’s the iPhone, hands down, even bigger than the VCR or the personal computer.
Because the iPhone (and other smartphone brands to follow) put the computer into our pockets, untethered and presented in a easy, intuitive way that appealed to the masses. Listen to music, answer the phone, watch TV, surf the net, all on one device. One in which we can also monitor our daily steps, show us how to get around and take amazing photos. (Again, those sunsets!)
I love my laptop, but it didn’t change my life.
So what of the future?
In 2016, I did a column quoting analysts saying that the smartphone as we know it, would cease and morph into some form of eyewear within the next few years. I didn’t believe it then, I don’t believe it now.
Having stuff flying in front of your eyes as you walk down the street is a distraction. (Take that, Google Glass.) We watched screens in the 1950s. We’re going to be looking at screens in the 2020s and 2030s.
Are you willing to pay for email? How about podcasts? Here are our tech predictions for 2021
It’s that time of year when we make predictions about what to see from technology in 2021.
We already know we’re good for new iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, new smart speakers from Amazon and beautiful new smart TV sets that will have higher resolution than ever before – at a lower cost.
So let’s offer up some tech predictions about what else we’ll see, or just might.
Let’s start with a given:
You’ll be paying for email in 2021
The world’s most popular email program Gmail, is owned by Google, which has decided to follow in Apple’s footsteps by getting more people hooked on monthly subscriptions. (Apple’s Services – which includes Apple Music, News and iCloud – is now its second-highest revenue generator, above Macs, iPads and Apple Watches.)
As of June 1, Google will no longer allow users to upload their photos and videos to Google Photos for free. Google offers 15 GBs of free storage for photos, but that also includes Gmail and Google Drive backup. The ask is that you pay for storage, which starts at $1.99 a month – but for just 100 GB of storage.
I don’t know about you, but my Gmail is 41 GBs worth now, I have 15 GBs worth of photos in Google Photos and 1.7 TBs on Google Drive.
Sure, I can clear out Google Drive, but the thing is, my email is a living, growing thing that is just not going to get smaller, no matter how hard I try to clean it up. It grows every day. So if you like your Gmail, get used to it – you might be paying.
Microsoft and Yahoo still offer free email, but they’re littered with ads, and you’re encouraged to step up to the “premium” versions, which starts at $5 and $3.49 a month, respectively, to go ad-free. Yahoo is eliminating the ability to automatically forward emails from Yahoo Mail beginning next week, unless you spend $34.99 a year for the service.
Big tech won’t find the new administration any friendlier
Facebook and Google’s woes in Washington, D.C., won’t change with a new Biden administration, we believe. The companies will continue to be hauled into Washington to defend against being broken up. President-elect Joe Biden has complained to the social network many times about all the disinformation coming out about him on Facebook, and the company declined to act. That certainly isn’t likely to play well in the Biden years.
The streaming wars will lose a big player
Many new streaming networks launched in 2020, most notably HBO Max and Peacock, and many more are on the horizon for 2021, including Paramount Plus and Discovery +, but at least one of the new networks will go down. Or so says my USA TODAY colleague Brett Molina, who puts Paramount Plus as the most likely victim.
Paramount Plus is the soon-to-be new name for what was CBS All-Access, with the addition of movies from the Paramount Pictures library and TV shows from the Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon) vault. “There’s just too many of them,” Molina says. “I can’t see it lasting.” (You will see many more first-run films on streaming channels in 2021, as Warner Media has announced its entire slate for HBO Max and Disney + has first-run fare scheduled as well.)
5G won’t get any better until late 2021
The launch of new phones with access to the supposedly faster wireless speed of 5G, and the wireless carriers’ breathless hype about speed left many consumers scratching their heads. The promised speeds were no faster than 4G. One day 5G will live up to the hype, but not until late 2021, believes Gene Munster, an analyst and investor with Loup Ventures. For real progress, we’ll have to wait for 2022.
Local retailers will find a way to compete with Amazon
It’s an aspirational wish, but “someone will solve the need and find a way to fill it,” says Kieran Hannon, the chief marketing officer for OpenPath, a company that offers next generation office entry technology. He believes a service will be developed to help local retailers compete with the Amazons of the world by letting customers order from a direct website serving locals and have products delivered to them at home, thus keeping sales in the neighborhood.
Zoom and video meetings will only get bigger
Business travel may start to come back from the dead in the second half of 2021, but all the companies that saved money from the trips won’t likely be as eager to send staffers traipsing around the country when meetings can be done cheaper and more efficiently via video.
Students will one day return to the classrooms, but company meetings, seminars, webinars and the like will likely continue. No need to return those ring lights to improve your appearance yet.
Speaking of Zoom, a possible acquisition?
The video networks is one hot property that saw its usage numbers climb from 10 million to 300 million amid the pandemic, making it one prime acquisition target. Who better to buy Zoom than Amazon?
The companies already work together, with Amazon Web Services providing the server backbone for all those Zoom meetings. Unlike Google, Apple and Facebook, which have their own well-established video networks (Google Meet, FaceTime and Messenger), Amazon doesn’t have one.
So with Zoom in the company, and all those meeting minutes (about 2 trillion in April alone,) what an attractive target that would make for Amazon to remind us to use Alexa and buy more stuff, right?
Pay for podcasts?
Finally, Munster from Loup Ventures believes Apple will follow its smash success with the Services division by introducing a new way for podcasters to make money on their shows by charging admission. He sees a “Podcast +” that sees everyone’s favorite audio shows (like Talking Tech) added to the Apple One bundle with Apple Music. “Good news for podcasters, who may see Apple as another avenue to monetize their listener base.”
We love it.
Happy New Year, everyone!
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