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Big Tech’s essential workers

MILAN — In the first weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic, people across the world stepped o..



MILAN — In the first weeks and months of the coronavirus pandemic, people across the world stepped out onto their balconies, opened their windows or stood on their stoops to clap for the health care workers risking their lives during the pandemic.

Another type of “essential worker” received less attention. And yet they played a big role in making our lives in lockdown more comfortable: They delivered pizza, sushi and poké bowls; they took us to the doctor’s office and drove us home when we couldn’t face taking public transport.

For many of these gig workers — delivery people and drivers working with platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber and Glovo — staying at home wasn’t an option. But showing up for work came at a personal cost.

With little or no access to sick pay or social security payments, many had to choose between the possibility of contracting the virus and the reality of having no means to pay their bills. Most had to buy their own protective equipment such as face masks and hand sanitizer. In a recent report, Fairwork — an organization researching best and worst practices in the emerging platform economy — found that most companies did not do enough to protect gig workers from exposure to COVID-19.

We asked riders and drivers in Europe’s major cities about what it was like to work through the pandemic. They all said: “We don’t feel safe.”

Riccardo Mancuso, Italy

“I was afraid — afraid of getting sick, of contracting the virus and passing it on to those around me,” said Riccardo Mancusco, 26, who works as a rider for the food delivery app Deliveroo to help finance his studies in Bologna.

The platforms didn’t provide workers with masks, gloves or hand sanitizer in the first weeks and months of the pandemic, according to Mancusco, who worked throughout the lockdown. “We felt left in jeopardy.”

It wasn’t until the trade union Riders Union Bologna launched a lawsuit against the platform in April, that Deliveroo started sending safety supplies to workers, according to Mancusco, who is a member of the union.

“In June, I received 10 masks, five bottles of hand sanitizer and a package containing about 50 pairs of gloves,” said Mancusco. The supply wasn’t enough to last longer than two weeks, after which he again bought his own. He eventually received a second package “with the same amount of materials” in late September.

In an emailed statement, Deliveroo said it “has distributed and continues to distribute personal protective equipment to riders (masks, sanitizing gel, etc.)” and guaranteed a refund of €25 if riders purchased their own. The company also stressed that it “implemented a ‘contactless’ delivery method” and offers financial assistance to riders if they fall ill: “€30 per day of compensation for hospitalization for up to 30 days”; “€1,500 one-time compensation for intensive care recovery, once discharged from the hospital”; and a “one-off lump sum of €350” if a rider has to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms.

Not everyone can afford to buy their own masks and sanitizer out of pocket, said Mancusco. Some of his colleagues come from extreme poverty. Many are migrants who have just arrived in Italy and cannot afford to spend their salary on buying a new mask every day.

“They told us, ‘Buy them, and we will reimburse you,’ but I never heard of any rider who actually got anything back,” he said.

“The employers put our health and that of their customers at risk,” he added, pointing out that the platform hasn’t put in place any new policies going into the fall and winter, even as the number of infections is growing across the country and people fear further lockdowns.

Jérémy Wick, France

When France went into lockdown in March, Jérémy Wick, 31, quickly realized that his job was not compatible with health safety.

“We come in contact with too many people,” said Wick, who works as a rider for Deliveroo and Uber Eats. “I deliver 20 orders a day on average. There are elevator buttons, doors and doorbells to touch all the time, the possibility of getting sick is higher.”

Wick came down with a fever, cough and chills in late March and was told by his doctor to self-isolate. At the time, only those with severe respiratory symptoms were tested for coronavirus, but Wick is confident he had a case of COVID-19 — and that he was exposed at work, despite his efforts to follow social-distancing measures.

“I don’t know if I got it from a colleague, a customer or a restaurateur, I just know that neither of the two platforms I work for protected me,” he said. “None of them sent me enough masks, gloves or hands sanitizer. The first package came in May: There were only three [masks].”

He was attracted to the work initially because he thought there would be “freedom” in flexible working hours, but said he became disillusioned when he realized it amounted to what he calls “a hidden form of exploitation.”

Wick said he received €30 a day in compensation during his quarantine from Deliveroo. In an emailed statement, the company said its insurance scheme covering riders in France “amounted to €230 for 24 days.” It added that it offered riders “free remote medical consultations.”

Wick ended up suing both Deliveroo and Uber Eats, arguing for changes to his contract and that they should have done more to ensure his safety. “I don’t want other colleagues to risk their health like what happened to me,” he said.

The experience has made him re-evaluate the value of the “freedom” he thought his job afforded him. “In March, even my girlfriend got sick because of me. I felt guilty, we were afraid of dying. For what? Delivering a pizza?”

Joynal Khan, United Kingdom

Until the coronavirus pandemic hit home in the U.K., Joynal Khan was happy with his choice to become an Uber driver.

Originally from Bangladesh, Khan, 52, came to London 28 years ago and, with his wife, raised five children on a waiter’s salary. He started driving for Uber six years ago, attracted by the flexible hours and the prospect of being his own boss.

The company’s treatment of drivers during the pandemic was a “great disappointment,” he said. “No masks or other protective devices. I emailed Uber complaining about the lack of material, but they didn’t do anything.”

When his calls went unanswered too, he decided to buy his own masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. But because demand was so low between March until August, Khan didn’t work. People weren’t leaving the house, he said. And no customers meant no income.

“Fortunately, I received something from the government, but I was hoping that Uber would also help us with some financial help,” he said. “My family and I struggled a lot to get to the end of the month.”

Uber did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Now things are a little better, said Khan. People are hailing rides again on the app, and he is back behind the wheel. He has received some masks from Uber, he said, but also makes sure to buy his own stash, because the supply is unreliable. He also keeps hand sanitizer in the car for his customers — and to help protect himself from them.

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Spain’s competition watchdog opens disciplinary case against Google



Spain’s competition watchdog, the ‘Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia’ (CNMC) has opened a disciplinary case against Google for alleged anti-competitive practices affecting publishers and Spanish news agencies, it said in a statement on Tuesday.

CNMC said it was investigating whether Google had abused its dominant position in the Spanish market. The proceedings involve Google LLC, Google Ireland Ltd, Google Spain, SL., and the overall parent company Alphabet Inc.

The alleged practices also include distorting free competition and imposing unfair conditions on press publishers and Spanish news agencies, CNMC said.

The watchdog’s investigation was sparked by a complaint from the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO).

CNMC will investigate the case over the next 18 months, during which both sides can present their arguments.

According to RTVE, Spain’s national broadcaster, Google will analyse the file and respond to the ‘doubts’ of the CNMC. They said that Google ‘works constructively with publishers in Spain and Europe’ and would ‘need time to analyse the details … as the nature of the claims is still not clear’.

It is not the first action by the Spanish competition regulator against Google, nor the first in which its dominant position in the media sector stands out. In 2021, CNMC already warned that this company and another technology giant, Amazon, monopolised 70% of internet advertising in Spain.

Other lawsuits in the Netherlands and the UK have previously accused the technology company of abusing its dominance in the digital advertising market to harm its competitors. France also fined Google in 2021 for not negotiating in good faith compensation for the media for using its news content.


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How does technology affect reading and writing?



Technology has dramatically changed the way we read and write in the 21st century. From e-books and online articles to social media and instant messaging, technology has made reading and writing more accessible and convenient. However, it has also brought about new challenges and concerns.

One of the biggest benefits of technology is the increased access to information. With just a few clicks, people can access an endless supply of books, articles, and other written materials from all over the world. This has made reading and writing more accessible for people who may not have had the opportunity to do so in the past. It has also allowed for greater collaboration, as people can now share their writing and receive feedback from a global audience.

Technology has also made writing and reading more interactive. Social media and blogs have made it possible for people to engage with written content in real-time, sharing their thoughts, opinions, and experiences with others. This has led to a more dynamic and engaged reading and writing community, with people able to communicate and connect with each other in new and meaningful ways.

However, there are also concerns about how technology is affecting our ability to read and write. One of the biggest concerns is the decline of attention span. With so much information available at our fingertips, it can be difficult to stay focused and absorb what we are reading. Many people find it difficult to concentrate on longer written works, and are instead drawn to shorter, more bite-sized pieces of content.

Additionally, technology has led to an increase in informal writing. The widespread use of text messaging and instant messaging has led to the widespread use of shorthand and abbreviations. This has created concerns about the impact it may have on people’s writing skills, as well as the way they communicate with others.

Another concern is the rise of “fake news.” With the ease of publishing content online, it has become increasingly difficult to differentiate between credible and unreliable sources. This has led to a decline in trust in the media, and has created a need for critical thinking and media literacy skills.

Despite these concerns, technology has also provided new opportunities for writing and reading. E-books and online platforms have made it easier for people to self-publish their work, giving them greater control over the distribution and promotion of their writing. This has created a more democratized publishing industry, and has made it possible for voices and perspectives that may have previously been excluded to be heard.

In conclusion, technology has had a profound impact on reading and writing. While there are certainly challenges and concerns, the increased access to information, the ability to connect and engage with others, and the opportunities for self-publishing have all made reading and writing more accessible and dynamic. As technology continues to evolve, it will be important to address the challenges it presents and embrace the opportunities it provides.

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How to measure human intelligence?



Measuring human intelligence is a complex task that has been attempted by many experts and researchers over the years. Intelligence is often defined as an individual’s ability to think, reason, and solve problems. However, this definition is not enough to capture all the aspects of intelligence. In this article, we will look at some of the ways that human intelligence can be measured and evaluated.

  1. Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Tests: IQ tests are the most commonly used method of measuring intelligence. They are designed to measure an individual’s ability to solve problems, think logically, and understand abstract concepts. The results of an IQ test are expressed as an IQ score, which is a number that represents a person’s intellectual abilities in comparison to the general population.
  2. Achievement Tests: Achievement tests are designed to evaluate an individual’s knowledge and skills in specific subjects such as mathematics, reading, or science. These tests can be a good indicator of a person’s intelligence in a particular subject area and are often used in schools and colleges to assess students’ abilities.
  3. Neuropsychological Tests: Neuropsychological tests are used to evaluate the functioning of the brain and nervous system. These tests can be used to diagnose neurological disorders, measure cognitive abilities, and determine the impact of injury or illness on a person’s cognitive abilities.
  4. Cognitive Ability Tests: Cognitive ability tests are designed to measure an individual’s mental abilities such as memory, reasoning, and problem-solving. These tests can be useful in determining a person’s potential for learning and development.
  5. Behavioral Assessment: Behavioral assessment involves evaluating an individual’s behavior, including their social skills, emotional regulation, and communication abilities. This type of assessment can be useful in identifying areas where an individual may need support or intervention.
  6. Performance-Based Tests: Performance-based tests are designed to measure an individual’s abilities in real-world tasks and activities. These tests can be useful in determining a person’s practical intelligence and can be used in a variety of settings, including schools, workplaces, and healthcare facilities.

It is important to note that no single method of measuring intelligence is perfect and each has its own strengths and limitations. Additionally, the results of intelligence tests can be influenced by many factors such as cultural background, education, and experience. As a result, it is important to use a variety of assessment methods to get a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s intelligence.

In conclusion, measuring human intelligence is a complex task that involves evaluating a variety of cognitive, behavioral, and performance-based abilities. While intelligence tests can provide valuable information about a person’s intellectual abilities, it is important to use a variety of assessment methods to get a more comprehensive understanding of an individual’s intelligence. By using a combination of tests, experts and researchers can get a more complete picture of an individual’s intellectual abilities and potential for learning and development.

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