In the News: Week of December 22nd

What happened in the world from December 22nd - 28th

Happy Sunday morning everyone! This will be the last time you hear from me until next year so…happy new year!

In the news this week

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was fired Monday morning, mostly due to the failures of the 737 MAX. Muilenburg wasn’t directly responsible for the failures of the plane, but the company needed a fall guy, and there’s no better option than the person at the top. I wouldn’t feel too bad for the former CEO; he could get a $39 million severance package.

5G, the future of cellular data, may make weather forecasts less accurate. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about 5G recently. Cellular companies are starting to roll out 5G in the U.S., and it’s supposed to be the future of wireless. There’s a big problem with 5G, though; many 5G transmissions will be broadcast at 24-gigahertz radio frequency. Water vapor molecules vibrate in the atmosphere at 23.8-gigahertz frequency. The 5G transmissions will interfere with the ability of weather satellites to detect weather. The interference will essentially be random (because people use their phones in different places and at different times), so satellite operators will not be able to screen out all the interference.

NOAA official Neil Jacobs warned Congress that weather forecasts would be set back to “around 1980” if the 5G rollout proceeds as planned. In the not-so-distant future, warning times for events like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards may become shorter and less accurate.

Protesters in Hong Kong “ruined Christmas,” according to the city’s leader. Protests in Hong Kong have been going strong since June, and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. The protesters are portrayed in Chinese media as thugs and rioters, while the Hong Kong police are the real perpetrators of violence. Police often use pepper spray, batons, tear gas, and water cannons on the protesters, who continue to fight for universal suffrage and an investigation into police brutality

Headline of the Week: Why Bernie Sanders Is Tough to Beat

Bernie Sanders hasn’t been polling at the top of many national polls. He’s usually behind Joe Biden, and a few months ago was also behind Elizabeth Warren. In a Democratic primary race that still feels up for grabs, Bernie has something that no other candidate does: loyal supporters. 

Pollsters often ask likely voters if their mind is made up when they ask them who they’re voting for. In Iowa, 57% of Sanders supporters said their mind was made up; no other candidate registered above 30%, and voters for other candidates, particularly Elizabeth Warren, are often also considering voting for Bernie. This suggests that Bernie Sanders has a high floor and a high ceiling, a combination that no other candidate seems to possess.

Recommended Reading: One Nation, Tracked

The New York Times recently published a series about how cell phones track us everywhere we go and how that’s definitely not a good thing. One Nation, Tracked is their seven part series about smartphone tracking, why it’s bad, and what we can do about it. I don’t want to call every story I write about in this section eye-opening, but...this story could open some eyes. Even if you assumed your phone was tracking you everywhere you went, you’ll still be shocked at what you read. 

It turns out we aren’t really anonymous; we’re often assured that all of the sensitive personal information being collected from us every time we open an app is anonymized. That’s true, but it’s very easy to figure out who someone is. Think about it this way: if someone saw where you went everyday and what time you went there, would they be able to figure out who you are? Anyone with your location data can see where you go to work every day, then where you go home to at night. Wherever you go, you probably have your phone with you, and apps in the background tracking your every move.

There are no laws that forbid collecting this data and selling the information. Companies are free to sell the data to whoever they want. In the future, if it isn’t happening already, abusive ex-spouses and stalkers could be able to buy and then analyze your phone’s location data. They would be able to see exactly where you are throughout the day, and carry out crimes against you based on this information. Employers might be able to tell that you had an interview with a competitor before you even know whether or not you got the job.

Have you ever gone anywhere that you didn’t want people to know about? Maybe you bought drugs from someone once or twice. Maybe you went to a protest that your family or friends wouldn’t approve of. Maybe you met up with a stranger for casual sex. Whatever it is, it’s now permanently recorded and can not be erased. Not only that, it’s also for sale.

Anyone could be blackmailed. The New York Times was even able to track the President (via a Secret Service agent). It’s safe to assume that you can be tracked by anyone anywhere you take your phone.

So why are we being tracked everywhere we go? Well, companies like money and would like to make more of it. Your location data is one of the keys to understanding consumer behavior. If you drive past an ad on a billboard then buy that product weeks or months later, the company will know. They’ll know when and where you saw the billboard. They’ll also know where you live, where you work, and almost everything else about you. 

Corporations have never had access to insights like this before. Advertising has historically been unpredictable and inefficient; ads are shown to a bunch of people, most of whom will never buy your product. That has already changed. Facebook and other similar data mining companies offer advanced targeted advertising based on all of the information they have about you. 

That information is only going to get more and more advanced, and more and more accurate. This is great for corporations, but not so great for personal privacy and security.

Bonus Recommended Reading: The Champion Who Picked a Date to Die

Only read this one if you’re in a crying mood. This is the story of Marieke Vervoort, her degenerative muscle disease, wheelchair sprinting career, and her decision to die. 

Her story is one of peaks and valleys. She won a gold medal at the Paralympics, and became an international celebrity. She enjoyed the attention, and loved having an audience. Her fame, she knew, would not be ever-lasting. The disease she had brought her unbearable pain, and she knew the day when it became too much was not far away. Vervoort also knew that she was in control of when she died, which lifted a weight off her shoulders.

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