Morning Edition
Tuesday September 22 2020

Daily Crunch: This TikTok deal is pretty confusing

Words: Anthony Ha - TechCrunch - 22:10 21-09-2020

Companies send out conflicting messages about the TikTok deal, Microsoft acquires a gaming giant and the WeChat ban is temporarily blocked. This is your Daily Crunch for September 21, 2020.

The big story: This TikTok deal is pretty confusing

This keeps getting more confusing. Apparently TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has reached a deal with Walmart and Oracle that will allow the Chinese social media app to continue operating in the United States, and the deal has been approved by Donald Trump. But it’s hard to tell exactly what this agreement entails.

ByteDance said it would retain 80% control of TikTok, while selling 20% of the company to Walmart and Oracle as “commercial partner” and “trusted technology partner,” respectively. However, Oracle released a seemingly conflicting statement, claiming that Americans will have majority ownership and “ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global.”

So what’s going on here? We’re trying to figure it out.

The tech giants

Microsoft set to acquire Bethesda parent ZeniMax for $7.5B — ZeniMax owns some of the biggest publishers in gaming, including Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog and Roundhouse Studios.

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Linux Fu: Simple SSH File Sharing

Words: Al Williams - Hackaday - 17:00 21-09-2020

If you have more than one Linux computer, you probably use ssh all the time. It is a great tool, but I’ve always found one thing about it strange. Despite having file transfer capabilities in the form of scp and sftp, there is no way to move a file back or forth between the local and remote hosts without starting a new program on the local machine or logging in from the remote machine back to the local machine.

That last bit is a real problem since you often access a server from behind a firewall or a NAT router with an ephemeral IP address, so it can’t reconnect to you anyway. It would be nice to hit the escape character, select a local or remote file, and teleport it across the  interface, all from inside a single ssh session.

I didn’t quite get to that goal, but I did get pretty close. I’ll show you a script that can automatically mount a remote directory on the local machine. You’ll need sshfs on the local machine, but no changes on the remote machine where you may not be able to install software. With a little more work, and if your client has an ssh server running, you can mount a local directory on the remote machine, too. You won’t need to worry about your IP address or port blocking. If you can log into the remote machine, you are good.

Combined, this got me me very close to my goal. I can be working in a shell on either side and have access to read or write files on the other side. I just have to set it up carefully.

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Once upon a time Nurse Ratched showed up on Disney’s Once Upon a Time

Words: Petrana Radulovic - Polygon - 19:52 21-09-2020

Nurse Ratched, the nurse at the heart of the Academy-Award winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, is one of cinema’s most notorious villains. Ryan Murphy found the character compelling enough to create Ratched , which casts Sarah Paulson in Louise Fletcher’s original role. But oddly enough, the new Netflix series is not the nurse’s first television appearance.

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Winners by default? Where this year's Oscar race stands

Words: Benjamin Lee - The Guardian - 07:18 22-09-2020

I t’s that time of year, as festival season winds down, when we start to sift through the settling dust to figure out how the shift to awards season might play out. This time last year, we’d seen seven out of the nine best picture nominees but that was back in 2019, the Old World, when all cinemas were still open, festivals were in-person and a deadly pandemic wasn’t raging.

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Ngozi Fulani: 'Black women don't want to risk their abusers being murdered'

Words: Hannah Summers - The Guardian - 06:00 22-09-2020

The number of women accessing a specialist domestic violence service for those of African and Caribbean heritage has increased by more than 300% since lockdown, according to its founder, Ngozi Fulani.

Across the UK domestic violence spiked during lockdown, not least because perpetrators and their victims were spending more time at home together. But Fulani, who set up London-based Sistah Space in 2015, says her clients tend to face additional pressures.

“Most of the women we support are living in small flats or high-rise accommodation without the luxury of a garden. There has been no specialist provision for black families on low incomes even though they are a vulnerable group during this pandemic.” All this contributes to rising tensions. Yet, Fulani estimates 80% of her clients who disclose abuse won’t report it to the police.

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Why the UN’s 75th general assembly could be worse than the world’s worst Zoom meeting

Words: Julian Borger world affairs editor - The Guardian - 06:00 22-09-2020

It has been billed as the world’s worst Zoom meeting, but the United Nation’s 75th general assembly could be even worse than that.

It is called the “general debate” but, unlike a Zoom meeting, there will be no discussion – just a week-long procession of pre-recorded video messages from the world’s leaders, stating their positions, very much with their domestic audience in mind. They were supposed to have sent their videos at the end of last week. As of Monday, only half had been turned in.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, is hoping to use the organisation’s 75th anniversary as an opportunity for member states to recommit to its founding principles, but the UN and multilateralism itself has never seemed so beleaguered.

“The problem is that much of the world is questioning whether the UN is still relevant at 75,” said Sherine Tadros, the head of the UN office of Amnesty International. “To use a Covid analogy, it’s a matter of whether it’s got too many underlying pre-existing conditions to make it through this next period.”

On Tuesday morning, Jair Bolsonaro’s presentation will be followed by Donald Trump, then Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Xi Jinping. Vladimir Putin’s turn comes about half an hour later. The “high-level week” will begin with a parade of the world’s self-styled strongmen.

According to the latest running order, 50 men will address the assembly before the first woman gets a chance to speak, Slovakia’s Zuzana Čaputová.

The speeches will be introduced by each country’s representative from their seat in the vast general assembly chamber and then the leader’s lecture will be displayed on giant screens set up behind the famous green marble podium where the speeches were delivered on the previous 74 general assemblies, in pre-Covid times. The speakers are allowed to use video graphics and some have availed themselves of the opportunity, according to UN diplomats.

Multilateralism

Donald Trump told the UN general assembly last year that the future did not belong to the globalists, and since then the US has moved further and faster to detach itself from the multilateral institutions, notably the World Health Organisation.

The UN secretariat insists that the organization's founding values endure across the world. Yet as the UN's secretary general, Antonio Guterres, admits, the UN remains paralysed and polarised.

No one yet has found a way to reform the UN security council to make it effective: there is no shortage of ideas, just no consensus and for two decades new proposals have lost out to the entrenched interests of the five veto-wielding permanent members of security council.

The impasse has prompted growing calls for the democratic countries  to find a way to work around the UN. A Biden Presidency might start with a summit of the democracies. In the meantime the void is being filled by China at the UN.

Covid

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CDC removes updated guidelines around COVID-19 aerosol transmission, but this expert explains why it should reverse the reversal

Words: Darrell Etherington - TechCrunch - 21:21 21-09-2020

Last week at TechCrunch Disrupt 2020, I got the chance to speak to Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist who is a Senior Fellow of the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Feigl-Ding has been a frequent and vocal critic of some of the most profound missteps of regulators, public health organizations and the current White House administration, and we discussed specifically the topic of aerosol transmission and its notable absence from existing guidance in the U.S.

At the time, neither of us knew that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would publish updated guidance on its website over this past weekend that provided descriptions of aerosol transmission, and a concession that it’s likely a primary vector for passing on the virus that leads to COVID-19 — or that the CDC would subsequently revert said guidance, removing this updated information about aerosol transmission that’s more in line with the current state of widely accepted COVID research. The CDC cited essentially an issue where someone at the organization pushed a draft version of guidelines to production — but the facts it had shared in the update lined up very closely with what Dr. Feigl-Ding had been calling for.

“The fact that we haven’t highlighted aerosol transmission as much, up until recently, is woefully, woefully frustrating,” he said during our interview last Wednesday. “Other countries who’ve been much more technologically savvy about the engineering aspects of aerosols have been ahead of the curve — like Japan, they assume that this virus is aerosol and airborne. And aerosol means that the droplets are these micro droplets that can float in the air, they don’t get pulled down by gravity […] now we know that the aerosols may actually be the main drivers. And that means that if someone coughs, sings, even breathes, it can stay in the air, the micro droplets can stay in the air anywhere from, for stagnant air for up to16 hours, but normally with ventilation, between 20 minutes to four hours. And that air, if you enter into a room after someone was there, you can still get infected, and that is what makes indoor dining and bars and restaurants so frustrating.”

Dr. Feigl-Ding points to a number of recent contact-tracing studies as providing strong evidence that these indoor activities, and the opportunity they provide for aerosol transmission, are leading to a large number of infections. Such studies were featured in a report the CDC prepared on reopening advice, which was buried by the Trump administration, according to an AP report from May.

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Twitter and Zoom’s algorithmic bias issues

Words: Megan Rose Dickey - TechCrunch - 18:58 21-09-2020

Both Zoom and Twitter found themselves under fire this weekend for their respective issues with algorithmic bias. On Zoom, it’s an issue with the video conferencing service’s virtual backgrounds and on Twitter, it’s an issue with the site’s photo cropping tool.

It started when Ph.D. student Colin Madland tweeted about a Black faculty member’s issues with Zoom. According to Madland, whenever said faculty member would use a virtual background, Zoom would remove his head.

“We have reached out directly to the user to investigate this issue,” a Zoom spokesperson told TechCrunch. “We’re committed to providing a platform that is inclusive for all.”

pic.twitter.com/1VlHDPGVtS

— Colin Madland (@colinmadland) September 19, 2020

When discussing that issue on Twitter, however, the problems with algorithmic bias compounded when Twitter’s mobile app defaulted to only showing the image of Madland, the white guy, in preview.

“Our team did test for bias before shipping the model and did not find evidence of racial or gender bias in our testing,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “But it’s clear from these examples that we’ve got more analysis to do. We’ll continue to share what we learn, what actions we take, and will open source our analysis so others can review and replicate.”

Twitter pointed to a tweet from its chief design officer, Dantley Davis, who ran some of his own experiments. Davis posited Madland’s facial hair affected the result, so he removed his facial hair and the Black faculty member appeared in the cropped preview. In a later tweet, Davis said he’s “as irritated about this as everyone else. However, I’m in a position to fix it and I will.”

Twitter also pointed to an independent analysis from Vinay Prabhu, chief scientist at Carnegie Mellon. In his experiment, he sought to see if “the cropping bias is real.”

(Results update)

White-to-Black ratio: 40:52 (92 images)

Code used: https://t.co/qkd9WpTxbK

Final annotation: https://t.co/OviLl80Eye

(I've created @cropping_bias to run the complete the experiment. Waiting for @Twitter to approve Dev credentials) pic.twitter.com/qN0APvUY5f

— Vinay Prabhu (@vinayprabhu) September 20, 2020

In response to the experiment, Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal said addressing the question of whether cropping bias is real is “a very important question.” In short, sometimes Twitter does crop out Black people and sometimes it doesn’t. But the fact that Twitter does it at all, even once, is enough for it to be problematic.

This tweet and thread get to the crux of what happens in work places. Marginalized folks point out traumatizing outcomes, majority group folks dedicate themselves to proving bias does not show up in 50+1% of the occasions as if 49% or 30% or 20% of the time doesn’t cause trauma. https://t.co/7GRgJyAiGH

— Karla Monterroso #BLM #ClosetheCamps (@karlitaliliana) September 20, 2020

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Hailing a self-driving taxi when blind. Learn how Waymo answers that challenge at Sight Tech Global

Words: Ned Desmond - TechCrunch - 18:50 21-09-2020

Imagine yourself unable to see well enough to drive, and how that would change your life. I witness that scenario every day at home with my wife, who is legally blind, and a very busy person. She reveres Uber and Lyft because they provided her with the still remarkable option to get up and go whenever she wants, wherever she wants.  So imagine her excitement a year ago when she was treated to a brief ride in a self-driving Waymo taxi. The safety driver asked my wife to buckle up and hit the “start” button. Yes, exactly! Where is that start button?

We all had a chuckle because the point of the excursion was to talk about Waymo’s commitment to accessibility in the development of self-driving taxis, which are already in service in Phoenix. Waymo is working closely with the Foundation for Blind Children (FBC) in Phoenix to get feedback on the experience, and also consulting with The Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco. We are delighted to announce that Waymo’s work on accessibility will be featured at p , which is a virtual event (December 2-3) focused on how AI-related technologies will influence assistive technology and accessibility in the years ahead. Attendance is free and p .

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Agents of Chaos: a shocking look at what really happened in the 2016 election

Words: Adrian Horton - The Guardian - 05:10 22-09-2020

L ast month, the US Senate intelligence committee published over 1,000 pages of findings on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In a different world – or, at least, a more sane one, the kind oriented away from the distrustful chaos desired by Russian intelligence – the bipartisan report would have landed with the frisson of anticipation surrounding the Mueller report in April 2019. But in a hyper-polarized, disaster-numbed nation, its relatively damning findings faded quickly under at least seven layers of justifiably frantic news cycles.

Agents of Chaos, a two-part investigative HBO series on Russian interference in the 2016 election, confirms some of the most damning findings of the Senate report – for one, extensive contacts between the Trump campaign, particularly former manager Paul Manafort, and “a cadre of individuals ostensibly operating outside of the Russian government but who nonetheless implement Kremlin-directed influence operations.” But the series, from Oscar-winning film-maker Alex Gibney, also visualizes, with first-person interviews from some of the major figures, what the rare bipartisan consensus (on facts, not narrative) cannot: the diffuse, dubiously quantifiable efforts by the Russian government – sometimes tightly organized, sometimes slapdash – to sow chaos in Ukraine and then America, the profit motives which compelled bumbling Trump figures into a “collusion” of mutual interest, and the head-spinning vertigo for average American consumers over what even happened four years ago.

“There’s tremendous pressure to make sense of it quickly, rather than saying, ‘Something happened, but we don’t know yet what it means,’” Gibney told the Guardian of the drive since 2016 to pin down an easily digestible, solid narrative of Russian interference. “People would jump very quickly to say, ‘This is what it means’. And I think it’s that search for quick meaning that lead so many people down the road to conspiracy theory.”

Agents of Chaos finds no single story, operation, locus of blame, or clear measure of impact by the Russian government. Instead, it explores a common purpose employed by both Russia and pro-Trump players in the US, sometimes in tandem and sometimes covertly. “Using chaos to amass power,” said Gibney.

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How rescuing drowning migrants became a crime

Words: Daniel Trilling - The Guardian - 05:00 22-09-2020

Tue 22 Sep 2020 01.00 EDT

A s patrol boats with flashing blue lights surrounded the Iuventa, just outside the port of Lampedusa on the evening of 1 August 2017, its crew were more annoyed than alarmed. For three days, the old fishing trawler, crewed by volunteers from the German NGO Jugend Rettet (Youth Rescue), had answered a string of requests from the Italian coastguard that to them made no sense. “This madness hopefully will soon be over,” read a message sent from the ship’s bridge to Jugend Rettet base camp shortly after 10pm.

In the summer of 2017, two years on from the peak of Europe’s refugee crisis, smugglers in Libya were still sending hundreds of people a day to sea in unsafe rubber boats, and the Iuventa’s crew wanted to be where the action was. In a patch of sea just off the coast of north Africa, about a dozen NGO ships were searching for boats in distress – a direct challenge, as many of them saw it, to European governments that had scaled back state-run rescue efforts.

Yet the Iuventa had been following instructions that drew it further away from the rescue zone and closer to Italian territorial waters. According to the ship’s records, the Italian coastguard first told the crew to rendezvous with an Italian navy ship to collect two men found adrift at sea, and deliver them to another. The second ship never turned up. Then they were told to look for a blue and white fishing boat with 50 people on board, apparently foundering in the sea close to Lampedusa. As night fell on 1 August, after a day spent searching the waves in vain, a message came through: call off your search and proceed into port.

It was the third time in a few months that the ship had been ordered into the harbour at Lampedusa. In just over a year, the Iuventa – crewed by a group of young, motivated people “who could not stand to see the situation in the Mediterranean any longer”, as one put it to me – rescued more than 14,000 people. Most of these rescues were coordinated by the Italian coastguard, but the relationship was increasingly strained. The Iuventa’s revolving crew of volunteers were outspoken critics of Europe’s border policies, and the small, agile ship took more risks than some of the larger NGO vessels, sailing as close as possible to Libyan waters in order to be able to rescue people from unsafe boats sooner. As one Italian media outlet put it, the ship was “like a sort of Berliner squat out in the middle of the sea – very well organised, radical and antagonistic”.

As the Iuventa entered the harbour of Lampedusa, the crew expected to be questioned briefly by police, as they had been on previous occasions, then allowed to get back to work. They were wrong. Within a few hours, their ship would be seized, marking the beginning of a long and still unresolved criminal investigation that leaves 10 humanitarian volunteers facing up to 20 years in prison.

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