What scientists know about the inner workings of the pathogen that has infected the world

Mark Fischetti:

In the graphics that follow, Scientific American presents detailed explanations, current as of mid-June, into how SARS-CoV-2 sneaks inside human cells, makes copies of itself and bursts out to infiltrate many more cells, widening infection. We show how the immune system would normally attempt to neutralize virus particles and how CoV-2 can block that effort. We explain some of the virus’s surprising abilities, such as its capacity to proofread new virus copies as they are being made to prevent mutations that could destroy them. And we show how drugs and vaccines might still be able to overcome the intruders. As virologists learn more, we will update these graphics on our Web site 

What happens when a kumbaya office culture meets the business realities of a pandemic?

Erin Griffith:

Start-ups that sell everything from mattresses to data-warehousing software have long used “making the world a better place”-style mission statements to energize and motivate their workers. But as the economic fallout from the coronavirus persists, many of those gauzy mantras have given way to harsh realities like budget cuts, layoffs and bottom lines.

That now puts companies with a “commitment” culture at the highest risk of losing what made them successful, said Ethan Mollick, an entrepreneurship professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Doordash and Thousands of Other Companies Passively Send Your Data to Facebook

Thomas Smith:

June 9th, 2020 at 2:13 pm, I paid $13.87 to have bubble tea delivered to my house via the popular food delivery service Doordash. I can’t say I’m especially proud of this decision.

When I made the purchase, I expected that my little indulgence would remain between me and Doordash, since I hadn’t done anything to explicitly link the service to my other online accounts. Maybe the driver who delivered it would roll their eyes. Maybe Doordash’s recommendation system would say “Ah, that’s a juicy sale!” and suggest I repeat the order in a few days. But I assumed my purchase wouldn’t ripple much beyond that.

But I was wrong. Doordash (and hundreds of companies like it) aren’t just recording every purchase you make. They’re also sharing purchase data with other companies, who are using it to target ads. And as I would discover as a result of my extravagant bubble tea order, one of those companies is Facebook.

The result is that consumers can now access massive data dumps from several large companies, including Facebook. To get your own, you simply go to Facebook.com/your_information, click on Download Your Information, and follow the instructions. Often within a few minutes, you’ll be invited to download a giant zip file with everything Facebook knows about you.

Bloomberg EIC Micklethwait: We publish too many mediocre and long enterprise stories

Chris Roush:

The key person to think about is the reader. They are busy people — who normally read only one screen or a story and SELDOM read more than two screens. (A screen typically is around 300 words, though a lot depends on the illustrations.) That does not mean no long stories. As I have said before, a long story on a complicated topic can save readers time if it replaces the need to read a lot of short ones. We need to do pieces that join the dots. And everybody will always read something long of it is fascinating. Some of our most-read stories are from Businessweek. But is has to be good enterprise. Some of our enterprise stories at the moment should really have been Blasts — and a few should just have been spiked.

In general our readers either want to have a quick piece of information or something that justifies the longer read. A good rule of thumb is that stories should either be shorter than 400 words or longer than 900. You either have a simple news story or a single observation (in which case go short) or a yarn or a chance to explain something very complicated (in which case go long). But taking 700 words or 800 words to make a single point will just annoy readers.

A Declaration of Independence by a Princeton Professor

Joshua T Katz:

In Congress, on July 4th, 1776, came the “unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” Signed by 56 men, many of whom were considered national heroes just a few minutes ago, it opens with a long and elegant sentence whose first words every American child knows, or used to: “When in the Course of human events…” In Princeton, New Jersey, on July 4th, 2020, just two hours after my family and I sat around the festive table and read the Declaration aloud in celebration, a group of signatories now in the hundreds published a “Faculty Letter” to the president and other senior administrators at Princeton University.

This letter begins with the following blunt sentence: “Anti-Blackness is foundational to America.” One important difference between the two documents might wrongly be dismissed as merely cosmetic. In 1776 there were “united States” but there was not yet the “United States”; in these past two months, by contrast, at a time when we are increasingly un-united, “black” has become “Black” while “white” remains “white.”

I am friends with many people who signed the Princeton letter, which requests and in some places demands a dizzying array of changes, and I support their right to speak as they see fit. But I am embarrassed for them. To judge from conversations with friends and all too much online scouting, there are two camps: those cheering them on and those who wouldn’t dream of being associated with such a document. No one is in the middle. If you haven’t yet read it, do so now. Be warned: it is long.

A Princeton faculty letter calls for eliminating academic freedom via a committee that would review all publications for racist thought (racist defined by the committee). It was issued on….July 4th. https://t.co/VeU9LICqbR

— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) July 6, 2020

There are four reasons why colleagues might have signed the letter.

Michele Flournoy: Queen Of The Blob

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos:

Jonathan Guyer, managing editor of The American Prospect, has an unbelievably well-reported piece on the making of a Washington national security consultancy, starring two high placed Obama-era officials and one of the Imperial City’s more successful denizens—Michele Flournoy.

Flournoy may not be a household name anywhere but the Beltway, but when she met Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda (Chiefs of staff to UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter respectively) she was already trading lucratively on her stints in two Democratic administrations. In fact, according to Guyer, by 2017 she was pulling nearly a half a million dollars a year a year wearing a number of hats: senior advisor for Boston Consulting Group (where she helped increase their defense contracts to $32 million by 2016), founder and CEO of the Democratic leaning Center for a New American Security, senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a member of various corporate boards.  

Hungry to get their own consulting business going after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss in 2016, according to Guyer, Aguirre and Chadda approached Flournoy for her starpower inside the Blob. Flournoy did not want “to have a firm with her name on it alone,” so they sought and added Tony Blinken, former Under Secretary of State and “right hand man” to Joe Biden for 20 years. WestExec Advisors, named after the street alongside the West Wing of the White House, was born. “The name WestExec Advisors trades on its founders’ recent knowledge of the highest echelons of decision-making,” writes Guyer. “It also suggests they’ll be walking down WestExec toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue someday soon.”

Soon the firm was raking in corporate contracts and the high sums that go with it. They weren’t lobbying per se (wink, wink) but their names and connections provided the grease on the skids their clients needed to make things happen in Washington. They shrewdly partnered with a private equity group and a Google affiliate. Before long, Guyer says, they did not need to market: CEO’s were telling other CEO’s to give them a call. More:

The founders told executives they would share their “passion” for helping new companies navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning Pentagon contracts. They told giant defense contractors how to explain cutting-edge technologies to visitors from Congress. Their approach worked, and clients began to sign up.

One was an airline, another a global transportation company, a third a company that makes drones that can almost instantly scan an entire building’s interior. WestExec would only divulge that it began working with “Fortune 100 types,” including large U.S. tech; financial services, including global-asset managers; aerospace and defense; emerging U.S. tech; and nonprofits.

The Prospect can confirm that one of those clients is the Israeli artificial-intelligence company Windward. 

To say that the Flournoy helped WestExec establish itself as one of the most successful of the Beltway’s defense and national security consultancies is an understatement. For sure, Flournoy has often been underestimated—she is not flamboyant, nor glamorous, and is absolutely unrecognizable outside of the Washington market because she doesn’t do media (though she is popular on the think tank conference circuit). She’s a technocrat—smart and efficient and highly bred for Washington’s finely tuned managerial class. She is a courtier for sure, but she is no sop. She has staying power, quietly forging relationships with the right people and not trying too hard to make a name or express ideas that might conflict with doctrine. She no doubt learned much in two stints in the Pentagon, which typically chews up the less capable, greedier, more narcissistic neophytes (not to mention idealists). She’s not exactly known as a visionary, however, and one has to wonder which hat she is wearing when she expounds on current defense threats, like this piece about beefing up the Pentagon budget to confront China.

Only 9% of visitors give GDPR consent to be tracked

Marko Saric:

Privacy regulations such as the GDPR say that you need to seek permission from your website visitors before tracking them.

Most GDPR consent banner implementations are deliberately engineered to be difficult to use and are full of dark patterns that are illegal according to the law.

I wanted to find out how many visitors would engage with a GDPR banner if it were implemented properly and how many would grant consent to their information being collected and shared.

There was no study done on this from what I could find out so I did my experiment. Let’s look at my findings.

The inventor of N95 masks had retired. But he now works 20 hours a day, mostly for free, to fight covid-19.

Washington Post:

Peter Tsai retired two years ago, but the materials scientist says he’s never been busier.

When the novel coronavirus began gripping the globe in March, Tsai was summoned from his short-lived retirement. He was in urgent demand because he is the inventor who, in 1995, patented the filtration material used in disposable N95 respirators.

OpenStreetMap, a global map for worldwide insight

Mikel Maron:

OpenStreetMap improves every day. Its unparalleled global coverage — from roads and rivers to pharmacies, forests, and much more — makes OpenStreetMap a vital resource for building high-quality visual maps and navigation services for every part of the world. And OpenStreetMap data is unlocking details at a scale previously impossible, examining block by block what street networks say about every city in the world. Three recent research projects are stand-out examples of how OpenStreetMap data enables global-scale analysis to inform how we plan and experience urban environments.