Making the Grade: COVID-19 allowed Google Classroom to shine, while iTunes U hasn’t been updated in years

As it became apparent that COVID–19 would send schools home, many IT directors suddenly had to build out distant learning solutions overnight. Since then, I’ve read about countless deployments of Google Classroom, Schoology, and other Learning Management Solutions being used to support at-home learning. There is one app I’ve not seen a single mention of during COVID–19, and that is iTunes U.

About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
I wrote back in early 2019 that iTunes U and iBooks Author were suffering from software rot. Neither application has seen much of an update in years. iTunes U hasn’t seen a new feature since October of 2017.
Apple pitches it as a seamless way to organize your classroom. When you read through the marketing materials for it, it looks like it should be a great resource for teachers and students alike. The keyword here is should. iTunes U on the iPad is on 3.7.1. The last meaningful update was with 3.5, which was released in March of 2017, and that wasn’t even much of anything.
Looking at the description of the application should give you hope that they had the right idea in the beginning.
iTunes U provides everything an instructor needs to bring the classroom together on iPad—build lessons with apps and your own materials, collect and grade assignments, start class discussions or talk with students to answer questions and provide feedback.

As school addressed COVID–19 and distance learning, the common term I kept hearing was: Google Classroom. Like with school email, Apple has completely allowed Google to own a software ecosystem for iPad and Mac users. Unlike email, they had a solution, though. In the early days, iTunes U was pretty useful as well. Version 1.0 launched in 2012, so Apple had a headstart on Google Classroom by years, but they squandered the lead. Apple should have been the premier solution for distance learning for schools during COVID–19. Like with any failures, it wasn’t during 20202 that they failed, but rather in years prior. By not investing in their K–12 software solutions, Apple has left schools to figure out their solutions on their own. Where there are countless learning management systems on the market, Google offers a really good one for free, so many schools were attracted to that. Like with G Suite, that is another step towards Chromebooks.

If a school with iPads and Macs who were already using G Suite suddenly became a heavy user of Google Classroom, it’s going to be more likely they will become a Chromebook school in the future. Like I’ve mentioned in the past, Google offers schools an end to end software and hardware ecosystem where Apple offers hardware and then is reliant on third party solutions for everything else in K–12. Outside of Managed Apple IDs and the existing apps they offer consumers (iWork, iMovie, Swift Playgrounds, etc.), they don’t provide much of software solution dedicated for K–12 outside of the Apple Classroom app for teachers which is more about device management rather can facilitating the learning experience. Speaking of Apple Classroom, check out the update log for it as well. The last meaningful update was in 2018.
What about Schoolwork?
Apple does have the Schoolwork app for the iPad as well, but it lacks any sort of system for teachers to access it on their Mac or on the web. The app shows a lot of promise, but it’s a teaching assistant and not an end to end learning management system. There is also no way to sync a grade book back to a student information system. Apps are required to add support for Schoolwork as well.
What should Apple do with iTunes U?
If I were running Apple’s education strategy, I would advise that Apple take control of its own destiny. iTunes U would be renamed to Apple Learning Management, and it would resume active development. It would be a best in class solution on the iPad, but it would also have a robust Mac and web application as well. It would compete directly with Google Classroom. It would have robust APIs so that school information systems could tie directly into it to sync data and grades.
My second step would be to invest in a G Suite competitor based on Apple School Manager and Managed Apple IDs. A lot of schools are already deploying managed Apple IDs, and it’s time to let them host their school email addresses on iCloud.
Both solutions would be free for any school.
Apple has spent years letting third parties control the software experience in K–12, but it’s time for Apple to take control of its destiny. Google has built up a headstart, but that doesn’t mean Apple should give up as that will lead to further erosion of their K–12 market share. They are pushing a vision for K–12 that is more of a creative approach, and I agree with that vision. The reality is that schools still have a curriculum they must follow, so Apple has to meet them where they are at now. Apple didn’t have a learning management system to facilitate learning during COVID–19, but this situation might happen again in the future, and Apple should have a solution ready. When I look at Apple’s K–12 website, I like what I see. I love the focus on AR and other creative tools. I believe AR is going to play a massive role in K–12 in the future, but I want Apple to continue to focus on the here and now. Google has tools (G Suite and Google Classroom) that directly solve problems that schools have today, and Apple doesn’t.
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How to read the numbers from India’s Covid19 testing

Updated: May 30, 2020 4:43:48 pm

At a given point of time, who will be tested and who will not, is dependent on specificity of testing criteria. (Express photo/Amit Mehra)Written by Aakanksha Arora, Mahima and Aasheerwad Dwivedi
COVID-19 outbreak has reached every continent besides Antarctica. The disease has upended life across the globe, shutting down entire cities and countries in a span of months. One specific statistics i.e. proportion of people tested positive out of total tests performed lies at the heart of understanding the spread of the pandemic. This number not only tells us about the prevalence of the infection but also about who are actually being tested.
An insightful way to analyze this number is to interpret it in terms of Sensitivity and Specificity of the testing criteria and Prevalence of the virus. In medical diagnosis, test sensitivity is the ability of a test to correctly identify those with the disease (true positive rate), whereas test specificity is the ability of the test to correctly identify those without the disease (true negative rate). Sensitivity tells us how well the tests can pick up patients with disease and specificity measures how well the test rules out people who are tested but aren’t infected. Prevalence is simply the existing rate of infection in the population.
At a given point of time, who will be tested and who will not, is dependent on specificity of testing criteria. During the early stages of any outbreak, as a first line of defense, the testing criteria usually has high specificity; which means only people with very specific conditions are eligible for testing. In case of COVID-19, these conditions include international travel history, high fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, etc. Because of high specificity, fewer people get tested. On the other hand, high sensitivity in testing criteria attempts to capture the majority of infected population, by testing as many as possible, which helps in containment interventions. To get a deeper insight, we use Bayes’ theorem to formulate ‘Proportion of test positive’ in terms of sensitivity, specificity and prevalence.
All the efforts related to controlling the pandemic can be seen as an attempt to drive this ratio down. There are only two ways of doing so- lowering the prevalence of the infection and/ or by reducing the specificity of testing criteria i.e. testing more and more population. Most countries, including India, started with ‘highly specific’ testing criteria due to lack of testing kits and related gears, which made economic sense as well. The ‘proportion of tests positive’ would be higher in a ‘highly specific’ testing criteria as only the people who possess specific pre-requisites would be tested. But as we start testing more population including asymptomatic people, this ratio reduces.
In India, the percentage of positive cases to total tests done was around 1-2 at the beginning. It started increasing over time as testing criteria was highly specific limited to high-risk group. It is a generally noted international trend that this ratio increases before it falls or flattens. In due course, the testing criterion was gradually broadened, and a massive increase in testing was also brought about, after which the positive test percentage has flattened. In the last two weeks number of tests in India rose from 1 lakh to more than 4 lakhs. One possible explanation of this could be that the prevalence of infection did not decline, counter balancing the wide expansion in testing (reducing specificity).
Further, to get a disaggregated picture, we analyse the same ratio for different states in India, as the pandemic unfolded at different rate among states in India. First important observation from the graph is varied positive cases to test ratio across states. Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka are the states for which this ratio is strictly decreasing as expected with higher testing done now. Since the beginning of this month, in Delhi, Maharashtra and MP this ratio reduced first and has flattened recently. Gujarat is the only state where it is increasing, but this can be treated as an anomaly considering the recent outbreak of the virus in the state. On this basis we can say that for Southern States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka the prevalence of infection has not increased, whereas Delhi and Maharashtra seem to have increased prevalence which is counterbalancing the decreased specificity of the tests being conducted. We must also keep in mind that these states are testing at different rates, with Maharashtra and Delhi conducting more tests in comparison to other states. Of course, many other factors like demography, mobility, health infrastructure and many unknowns need to be accounted for accurately statistical analysis.
What does all this imply for India?
We have relaxed the specificity of testing criteria recently and as an outcome we can see that the proportion of tests positive has started to flatten recently. But it has not yet reduced. It could be due to either that the rate of infection has not yet reduced sufficiently or that we need to keep improving the testing efforts to achieve the optimal testing coverage. In either the case, it was necessary for us to extend the lockdown and follow the principles of social distancing. We must carry on with following these to the T to control the spread of this pandemic.
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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot has 2 words for Donald Trump: ‘It starts with F and ends with U’

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has had it with Donald Trump’s bullshit threats of violence against Americans.

“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” she said at a press conference today, regarding the police killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd.

“I will encode what I really want to say to Donald Trump,” Lightfoot said.

“It’s two words: It begins with F and it ends with U.”

The mayor was addressing Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” social media posts.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot censors herself but says “fuck you” to President @realDonaldTrump over his comments implying people will be shot in Minneapolis. https://t.co/hjDlIjc0Kz

— Kelly Bauer (@BauerJournalism) May 29, 2020

“I pray for the day we can eradicate two plagues in our face; COVID19 and racism,” the Mayor continued.

Why is Customs and Border Protection flying a Predator drone over Minneapolis?

Buzzfeed News reporters obtained the explanation offered by United States Department of Homeland Security’s CBP to congressional staffers who asked why it decided to fly a Predator Drone over Minneapolis during the protests over the killing of George Floyd.
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Trump claims he didn’t know racist origin of his ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts’ tweet (and WH retweet)

Donald Trump on Friday afternoon claimed to be completely ignorant of the racist history of the phrase ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts,’ which he tweeted, and the White House retweeted, and which was also posted on the Presidential Facebook account.
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Investigation into TikTok as risk to U.S. children’s privacy urged by 4 U.S. senators

The letter from 4 senators was addressed to Zhang Yiming, founder and CEO of TikTok owner ByteDance.
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This brush set enlists your power drill in the war on germs and dirt

For years, dirty countertops, appliances, or bathroom fixtures were just kind of gross. But unkempt corners of your kitchen and bathroom aren’t just a sign of laziness anymore. Now, they’re a potential breeding ground for infectious disease.  You can’t just limp through cleaning these days. You’ve gotta get rigorous about it, which means it’s no […]
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This solar charger works anywhere to power up your devices in just minutes

Hunting around for an outlet or a power battery when you’re trying to charge your phone or tablet is always an annoyance. But when you’re out in the world hiking or camping or traveling, finding an outlet might be more than a minor inconvenience…it might be downright impossible. Running low on battery power isn’t an […]
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With Learnable, learning to code doesn’t have to turn your brain into a pretzel

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi Of all the skills you feel like you should probably know, yet likely don’t, coding might be one of the most intimidating. From the varied programming languages to the range of platforms to the sheer discomfort […]
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Melania Trump Says ‘There Is No Need For Violence’ In George Floyd Protests

The first lady posted a tweet calling for those protesting the police killing to be peaceful and offering condolences to Floyd’s family. Floyd, who was Black, died after a white police officer knelt on his neck.
“Our country allows for peaceful protests, but there is no reason for violence,” the first lady wrote. “I’ve seen our citizens unify & take care of one another through COVID19 & we can’t stop now. My deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd. As a nation, let’s focus on peace, prayers & healing.”
Our country allows for peaceful protests, but there is no reason for violence. I’ve seen our citizens unify & take care of one another through COVID19 & we can’t stop now. My deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd. As a nation, let’s focus on peace, prayers & healing.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) May 29, 2020

Trump’s call for unity stood as a stark contrast to her husband’s tweets threatening to escalate the Minneapolis violence with the National Guard and evoking bellicose tough-cop lines from the 1960s. One of the president’s tweets early Friday was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”
Some people on Twitter, including CNN’s Chris Cilleza, pointed out that the first lady’s tweet showed more sensitivity than her husband.

What if the president had just sent this tweet? Rather than one using racially coded language (“thugs”) and issuing a direct threat of violence against protesters? https://t.co/KJObggH9aK— Chris Cillizza (@CillizzaCNN) May 29, 2020

Others noted the contradiction in Melania Trump’s message and her husband’s threats. 
Your husband sent out a message saying to kill. That’s quite the opposite of peaceful— mary elizabeth (@mxryelizabeth) May 29, 2020

Why then is your husband calling for shooting the looters. Do you agree. If you don’t, could you have a word with him if you see him in the next couple of days?— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) May 29, 2020

Your husband just told white people to kill black people if they break a window.— Liddle’ Savage (@littledeekay) May 29, 2020

Your husband cheered on white people storming the Michigan State Capitol armed with assault weapons so they could get a haircut https://t.co/9Mc6eB2epY— Jason Le Miere (@JasonLeMiere) May 29, 2020

Colin Kaepernick’s mother weighed in, noting that the president wasn’t very fond of peaceful protests. 

The man who peacefully protested against systemic racism and police brutality was called a “Son of a Bitch” by your idiot husband and lost his job. Let’s not focus on peace and prayers, let’s focus on change! https://t.co/GiX1QANOKZ— Teresa Kaepernick (@TessKap) May 29, 2020

One person suggested Melania Trump’s predecessor as first lady might have a more meaningful comment. 
Would rather hear from our real first lady Michelle Obama right now.— Alex Cole (@acnewsitics) May 29, 2020

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2:00PM Water Cooler 5/29/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Well, it’s been a quiet week in Lake Wobegone….”
* * *
Patient readers, I got wrapped round the axel on COVID19. I have to add more material on events in Minneapolis. –Lambert UPDATE All done!
#COVID19
At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Today I thought I would look at Southeast Asia: South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines:

The vertical scale is scaled to the highlight, South Korea, and so really excellent performers, like VIetnam and Thailand, are jammed together at the bottom. All the curves are calendar-, not inception-based. It’s not clear to me that the “moar sunlight” hypothesis has great weight, given the relative performance of Singapore and Vietnam (or Thailand). I marked the portion of the curves with a box called “Hmm” because we see curves of relatively the same shape, although at different levels, which then radically diverge. Singapore just loses it, Indonesia and the Philippines do badly, and South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand seem to throttle the disease (we can only hope). But our Sunbelt states, seemingly chugging along: Are they in their own “Hmm” box right now? See The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project:

The recent significant regional differences in the trends continue: pic.twitter.com/9N9Dxq0wyL
— The COVID Tracking Project (@COVID19Tracking) May 28, 2020

Alert reader CL writes: “You commented today about wanting to see a plot of excess deaths. There is a preliminary dashboard for that over at the CDC.” Here it is. This is an embed, so ought to be interactive. If not, the link is here:

Politics
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune
“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

* * *
2020

Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden Eyes Gradual Return to the Campaign Trail” [Bloomberg]. “Biden has stayed at home for more than two months, holding campaign events and media appearances from a basement studio, in keeping with health experts’ guidance. The timing of his basement exit would be propitious for Biden as President Donald Trump’s re-election effort continues to reel from the shaky coronavirus response and a souring economy with more than 40 million people unemployed. As Trump pushes Americans — including Biden — to come out of their homes, Biden’s natural affinity for campaigning could draw a sharp distinction. • Since when does Biden have a “natural affinity” for campaigning? For example: “On Monday, a pool of 11 journalists covered his cemetery visit, wearing masks and mostly keeping at least six feet from the candidate. It wasn’t perfect. When Biden responded to a reporter’s shouted question, he kept his mask on, making the answer nearly incomprehensible.” • How on earth did Biden’s campaign team let that happen? It’s the same story yesterday with Biden’s seeming pétarade; the video was made in his study, and so Biden’s staff — presumably, and if not, why not? — controlled the feed. Was there nobody with their finger on the bleep button? This seems trivial, until one remembers that one way Biden promises to return to normalcy is competent administration.
Biden (D)(2): “Klobuchar makes her not-so-quiet bid to be Joe Biden’s running mate” [CNN]. “The prospect that Biden could pick Klobuchar has generated a fierce backlash from some Democrats, who signaled the three-term senator would be an unacceptable choice stemming in part for her criminal justice record while she was a county attorney. That record could resurface as her home state grapples with the death of George Floyd, who died this week in Minneapolis after pleading that he couldn’t breathe while a police officer held him down with a knee on his neck. Klobuchar, along with other Minnesota lawmakers, has called for an investigation into the death, and told CNN the case is ‘just crying out for some kind of a charge.’” • Biden picking Klobuchar would be the Mother of All Sister Souljah Moments, wouldn’t it?
Biden (D)(3): “Biden’s “You Ain’t Black” Comment Is Symptomatic of Democrats’ Deeper Race Problem” [Briahna Joy Gray, Current Affairs]. “Democrats indulge in a kind of racial essentialism—a presumption that political allegiances are a part of one’s racial identity. It’s obvious that someone like Biden is not in a position to define what does and doesn’t constitute true Blackness. But nobody should be portraying Black voters as a uniform bloc whose political loyalties are predetermined by their identity.”
Cuomo (D)(1): “Cuomo’s coronavirus halo begins to fade” [Politico]. • That’s a damn shame.
UPDATE Sanders (D)(1): “Briahna Joy Gray Is Not Backing Down” (interview) [Jacobin]. “We have Democrats saying things about, “Trump voters deserve to live in squalor. They voted for him, and that’s the world that they deserve, the outcome that they deserve.” Not thinking about worlds of imperfect information, or the extent to which their lives have intrinsic value, or that people change and evolve over time. And that they have children who did not make those voting choices who live in those households.” • Good point on the children. Sane. Relatable.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“‘Don’t Look for a Soothsayer’: An Interview with Harry Enten” (interview) [New York Review of Books]. Enten: “[T]here hasn’t been a single election like this one in the polling era, which began, roughly speaking, in the 1940s or 1950s. Fortunately, most events during a political campaign don’t tend to move the polls. Moreover, we’re dealing with a contest that has been incredibly static over time in terms of movement in the polls: Biden’s been ahead by around a little more than five points nationally for nearly a year and a half. Campaigns that are steady in the early going have a tendency to remain that way to the end. Of course, we have to allow for a lot of uncertainty into that. What happens if we get a vaccine or a great drug for treatment that helps us beat coronavirus late in the campaign? What happens if the economy rebounds and has a strong month just before the election? The possibility of unforeseen events is greater now than perhaps ever.”
UPDATE “Black voters don’t trust mail ballots. That’s a problem for Democrats” [Reuters]. “During the most recent national elections, the 2018 congressional midterms, only about 11% of black voters cast their ballots by mail, according to Census figures. That’s the lowest percentage of any measured ethnic group, and it’s just under half the rate of white voters. There are a variety of reasons. For African Americans such as Fason, striding to the polls is a powerful act, both symbolic and substantive. Some black voters fear their mail ballots might get lost or rejected. African Americans are more transient than other racial groups and have high rates of homelessness, government statistics show, major barriers to mail voting. That could pose a problem for Democrats if in-person voting is severely restricted in November and many polling stations closed because of coronavirus worries.”

Stats Watch
At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.
Manufacturing: “May 2020 Chicago Purchasing Managers Barometer Hit Lowest Level Since 1982” [Econintersect]. “The Fed manufacturing surveys were in contraction this month because of the coronavirus impacts.” From ISM Chicago: “The Chicago Business BarometerTM, produced with MNI, fell to 32.3 in May, hitting the lowest level since March 1982.”
Personal Income: “April 2020 Headline Personal Income Jumps, Expenditures Significantly Declines” [Econintersect]. “This month the coronavirus again killed consumer spending which is down 13.6 %. Income grew because of the economic recovery payments sent to most Americans.”
Consumer Sentiment: “Final May 2020 Michigan Consumer Sentiment Largely Unchanged But Still At Low Levels” [Econintersect]. “Consumer sentiment has remained largely unchanged during the past two months, with the final May estimate just a half index point above the April reading. The CARES relief checks and higher unemployment payments have helped to stem economic hardship, but those programs have not acted to stimulate discretionary spending due to uncertainty about the future course of the pandemic. It should not be surprising that a growing number of consumers expected the economy to improve from its recent standstill, or that the majority still thought conditions in the economy would remain unfavorable in the year ahead. This has been a common occurrence in past cycles.”
Rail: “Rail Week Ending 23 May 2020 – Looking For Signs Of Improvement” [Econintersect]. “Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Whilst container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. continues to slow. The rate of growth of rail had been improving before the coronavirus (even though it was in contraction) – and now the coronavirus is driving rail deeper into contraction. The effects of coronavirus will continue to slow rail. The AAR thinks they see some signs of improvement – but I need to see a clear sign above the normal volatility of rail.”
* * *
Honey for the Bears: “Fed’s Mester says it’s hard to imagine quick V-shaped recovery’ [Reuters]. “‘The recovery could be slow,’ Mester said Friday during an interview with Bloomberg TV. ‘When we have so many people out of work it’s hard to imagine that we see a quick V-shaped recovery.’”
* * *
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 51 Neutral (previous close: 50 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated May 29 at 1:18pm. This hovering around neutral is getting to me. 2020 has, so far, been the least neutral year imaginable.

The Biosphere
“An almost perfectly efficient light-activated catalyst for producing hydrogen from water” [Nature]. ” One promising sustainable energy carrier is hydrogen, if it can be produced using renewable energy sources — hydrogen is a green fuel, because its combustion produces only pure water. Writing in Nature, Takata et al.1 report a breakthrough in catalyst design that might accelerate the development of large-scale processes for making hydrogen from water using sunlight…. This is a spectacular result for several reasons,” those reasons being above my paygrade as well. Readers?
Health Care
“To mask or not to mask children to overcome COVID-19″ [European Journal of Pediatrics]. ” To reduce the role of asymptomatic or poorly symptomatic people in COVID-19, universal use of face masks in addition to hand hygiene and safety distance seems extremely useful…. In addition to the availability of masks of different sizes capable of adapting perfectly to the face, it is necessary that the use of masks in children is preceded by a strong parental work and school lessons on this issue and other hygiene topics with the main aim to obtain child cooperation.”
“Paul Garner: Covid-19 and fatigue—a game of snakes and ladders” [British Medical Journal]. “‘Beware the apparition’, a friend said to me. I have had post-viral fatigue in the past with dengue and it just slowed me down, but this was somehow different. ‘Boom and bust’—you feel great, do a little bit more than usual and come crashing down the next day. I felt aggrieved as I had not done much at all. ‘You don’t understand pacing’, the ME [Myalgic Encephalomyelitis] Association adviser Charles Shepherd told me. He explained that this ‘post-exertional symptom exacerbation; is a good signal for people with the chronic fatigue syndrome/ME. The difference is with covid-19, the fatigue is happening at the same time as other dangerous complications. I looked at the Facebook self-help groups, many were describing ‘relapses/’ On quizzing many had the ‘apparition.’ They thought they were better and had taken the opportunity to clean the house top to bottom or go out on a long bike ride.”
“Modeling Epidemics With Compartmental Models” [JAMA]. “[T]he parameters in a traditional SIR model do not allow for quantification of uncertainty in model parameters. The parameter inputs are point estimates, which are single values reflecting the modeler’s best guess. A common strategy in predicting the course of an epidemic is to calculate the SIR model over a few possible values for each parameter. The result is a range of future trajectories, but this strategy does not formally quantify the uncertainty in the predictions. More complex models use distributions for each parameter instead of a point estimate to characterize the probability of various future trajectories.” • This paper is way above my paygrade; perhaps an epidemiologist maven can elucidate. Taleb doesn’t think much of SIR models, though.
“Map: COVID-19 meat plant closures” [Meat + Poultry]. The map is interactive to the plant level, but here’s a high-level view:

“There’s A Cover-Up Happening In Iowa” [Iowa Starting Line]. “Though Iowa has put out some information on meatpacking plant outbreaks, Gov. Reynolds and IDPH has done their best to obfuscate their severity, limit public announcements and just outright ignore problems when they can. Most of what Iowans know of these outbreaks have only come after dogged investigations from local reporters. The reason is to keep these plants running at all costs, both so that company executives don’t lose money and that local hog farmers don’t have their supply chain disrupted. The cost to keep everything going is simply workers’ lives and their health. This trade-off need not exist — it is possible to both keep workers safe and plants running, but it seems that anything that may slow production in the slightest is avoided.” • I would imagine the same is happening at many other plants on the map above.
“Church challenges COVID-19 stay-at-home order (Updated)” [SCOTUSBlog]. “In its 33-page filing, which was submitted to the Supreme Court over the weekend but wasn’t docketed until today, the South Bay United Pentecostal Church acknowledges that the “COVID-19 pandemic is a national tragedy” but argues that it “would be equally tragic if the federal judiciary allowed the ‘fog-of-war’ to act as an excuse for violating federal constitutional rights.” Those rights are being violated, the church contends, because the reopening plan outlined by California Governor Gavin Newsom and San Diego County allowed retail stores, offices, restaurants and schools to open on May 20, while keeping the church and other houses of worship closed. Moreover, the church adds, Newsom justified the later opening for churches by explaining that the reopening plan gave priority to services that the state considers more important.” • Typically, one does not sing or exchange the kiss of peace in a liquor store. YMMV!
“Hydroxychloroquine and the Political Polarization of Science” [Boston Review]. My bottom line: “[T]here is a huge amount of information circulating that has some scientific legitimacy but that may be dramatically underdeveloped and more likely than normal scientific findings to be overturned. Claims about hydroxychloroquine fall into this category. Despite widely reported but hardly definitive recent studies, which Trump’s media critics have latched onto as evidence that hydroxychloroquine does not improve outcomes, the scientific jury is still out. We do not yet know whether hydroxychloroquine, remdesivir, or other possible treatments are effective for COVID-19. This legitimate uncertainty means that pundits and journalists who treat claims supporting hydroxychloroquine as akin to typical misinformation (or radical conspiracy theories) are misdiagnosing the situation. Trumpeting hydroxychloroquine is undoubtedly risky, both because current evidence is too mixed to support that claim and because it can lead to problems like drug hoarding. But sharing anecdotal accounts of the success of hydroxychloroquine in various clinical settings is not necessarily misinformation—and neither is sharing information about failed clinical trials or shortages for patients who need the drug for other purposes. These are all pieces of evidence that should inform any reasonable person’s beliefs about hydroxychloroquine and COVID-19.” • This piece is well worth a read because it traces how hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment propagated.
“Guest Post: What will we learn from COVID-19?” [PHRMA]. • Entertaining, in its own way.
The 420
“‘Cannabis burned during worship’ by ancient Israelites – study” [BBC]. “A well-preserved substance found in a 2,700-year-old temple in Tel Arad has been identified as cannabis, including its psychoactive compound THC…. Thanks in part to the dry climate, and to the burial, the remains of burnt offerings were preserved on top of these altars.” • Lev 2:1: “He shall take out the memorial portion from the grain offering and burn it on the altar as an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.” Alrighty, then!
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“When the looting starts, the shooting starts” has a history:

1/ This line in Trump’s tweet: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”… is a quote from Miami Police Chief Walter Headley
In Dec 1967, months before riots at GOP Convention in Miami, Headley used that quote to announce “get tough” policy for policing black neighborhoods
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) May 29, 2020

Josh Bartlett would have used his indoor voice:

Obama would have said “when rights to private property and the safety of the general public are in jeopardy, we must take thoughtful yet forceful action”
— Aisha Ahmad (@aishaismad) May 29, 2020

Liberal Democrats clutch their pearls over over Trump’s use of “thug.” Come on, man:
“Obama calls Baltimore rioters thugs, says entire country has work to do” [McClatchy]. From 2015 (Baltimore, Freddie Gray), still germane. “Obama decried as ‘criminals and those who looted stores and torched vehicles in [Baltimore] after the funeral service for an African-American man who died of spinal cord injuries a week after an encounter with police.”
“President Obama: Don’t Use Ferguson as ‘An Excuse for Violence’” [ABC]. From 2014 (Ferguson, Michael Brown), still germane. “‘We saw during the summer the possibility of even overwhelmingly peaceful crowds being overrun by a few who might be looking for an excuse to loot or to commit vandalism,’ Obama told Stephanopoulos. ‘What I’ve done is called Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri, to make sure that he has a plan to respond in a careful and appropriate way to any potential violence, to be able to sort out the vast majority of peaceful protesters from the handful who are not.’” • The “careful and appropriate way” was, of course, calling in the national guard.
* * *
UPDATE This is extremely odd:

Here’s video of the first person alleged to have taken a hammer to the AutoZone window, which activists immediately suspected was a provocation. Black gloves, black boots, black clothes (not unkempt like antifa, no offense), nice gas mask. Who is this guy? https://t.co/jy4Fu409vF pic.twitter.com/blcn6mCujR
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) May 28, 2020

Quite a fetching outfit. I’ve seen multiple videos and photos of this (white!) guy (here, here, here, and here); it’s almost like he wanted to be seen. But why? And does the black umbrella remind you of anything? Well…

He’s dressed exactly like this so he’s forsure someone who went out of his way to cause trouble pic.twitter.com/sJJ2Vh0TkY
— Dr. Barb MD (@ka5sh) May 28, 2020

Lots of speculation on the various threads. Indulge yourself1 But do remember that Reddit did a terrible job with the Marathon Bomber….
UPDATE Tactical ingenuity:

Just saw some protest photos out of Minneapolis, & think someone threw a frozen chicken through a squad car window pic.twitter.com/F7tldVbCtq
— * (@jennyauguste) May 27, 2020

Sports Desk
Correct:

The goal of major league baseball is to have games played by unpaid volunteers, all costs subsidized by taxpayers, and admission to games open to only a handful of billionaires who will sip $1M Bud Lights and not even watch the game.
— Mike Duncan (@mikeduncan) May 28, 2020

But insufficiently generalized?
Groves of Academe
“Protected by Decades-Old Power Structures, Three Renowned Harvard Anthropologists Face Allegations of Sexual Harassment” [Harvard Crimson]. “Bestor, Urton, and Comaroff — the three faculty members accused of sexual misconduct — are all both tenured professors in one of the world’s most renowned anthropology departments and major figures in the field at large.”
News of the Wired
“The Vintage Beauty Of Soviet Control Rooms” [Design You Trust]. • Primitive Soviets, they don’t even have touch screens! What would Elon Musk think?

Then again, from a UI/UX perspective, you’ve got to wonder if those big ol’ analog controls have something to be said for them.
Let this be a lesson for those who play American Roulette:

Someone Put Skeletons at a Poker Table in an Arizona Lake For Divers to Stumble Across (https://t.co/tDJO6I99PP) pic.twitter.com/sgrztHYJqG
— Diane Doniol-Valcroze (@ddoniolvalcroze) May 29, 2020

To be fair to the ridiculous Larry Summers, studying the impressionists is not such a bad thing:

Rouen Cathedral, Symphony in Grey and Rose, 1894 #impressionism #monet pic.twitter.com/pxDqQY6KEx
— Claude Monet (@artistmonet) May 29, 2020

* * *Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

TH writes: “I believe this peach bloom with faint pink accents would be defined as a full-petalled, rosette-sshaped bloom.”
* * *
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

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Trump’s family tries to clean up his mess by tweeting wildly inconsistent calls for peace

Image: Paul Morigi / WireImage

By Nicole Gallucci2020-05-29 17:24:52 UTC

The Trump family is extremely online today, and they’re all over the place with their messaging. 
On Friday morning, Twitter hid another one of Donald Trump’s tweets and slapped a warning label on it. Trump’s statement about the protests over the death of George Floyd — which included the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” — violated the site’s rules about glorifying violence, and many horrified users agreed. (For background, that phrase was first spoken in 1967 by Miami police chief, Walter Headley, when explaining that his force “didn’t mind being accused of police brutality.”)
This is part of an ongoing fight between the social media platforms and the president, who yesterday signed an executive order intended to intimidate these companies against getting in the way of him spreading (often false) information to his followers.
After Twitter took action against Trump’s tweet on Friday morning, the official White House Twitter account re-tweeted the president’s words. (Twitter eventually censored that tweet as well.) But as Trump’s unpresidential, divisive messages came under fire, his family members logged on and tried to do their best to clean up his mess.

Image: screenshot / twitter

It’s rare to see the majority of the Trump family commenting online at the same time, but on Friday Melania, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr., Eric, and even Lara shared their thoughts on the chaos that’s unfolding in Minnesota and Twitter’s actions against the president.
The tweets, however, all carried fairly inconsistent messages.
Melania called for peace and offered her deepest condolences to George Floyd’s family. She also asked that we focus on “peace, prayers & healing” as a nation, which directly contradicts her husband’s call to send the National Guard to Minnesota and use violence if necessary to get the situation under control.

Our country allows for peaceful protests, but there is no reason for violence. I’ve seen our citizens unify & take care of one another through COVID19 & we can’t stop now. My deepest condolences to the family of George Floyd. As a nation, let’s focus on peace, prayers & healing.
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) May 29, 2020

Ivanka chose not to address the protests at all. She simply said the people in Minneapolis “are hurting for a reason” and that her heart goes out to Floyd’s family and all hurting Americans.
 “Justice is how we heal,” she wrote — providing a stark contrast in tone to her father’s tweets.

People in Minneapolis are hurting for a reason. Justice is how we heal.My heart goes out to George Floyd‘s family and all Americans who are hurting.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) May 29, 2020

Meanwhile, Donald Trump Jr., spent much of the morning trying to disparage Joe Biden, Ilhan Omar, and Jack Dorsey. But he did take some time to address the protests.

What happened to George Floyd was disgusting. He should be alive today & I’m praying for his familyPeople are right to be angry, but there’s never an excuse for the type of violent riots unfolding nowNo American should ever have to watch their own community burn to the ground https://t.co/b7Q0kljGW4
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 29, 2020

Eric Trump also took shots at Joe Biden and came for Twitter on Friday morning, and Lara Trump said that although a murder was committed, other crimes are now also taking place in Minnesota. 

Aside from the outward facing bias of @Twitter, there is hardly a single influential conservative on this platform who doesn’t believe their account has been negatively manipulated & influenced behind the scenes. I’m thrilled to see @realDonaldTrump take decisive action.
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) May 29, 2020

Looting is not protesting. Burning down local homes and businesses is not protesting. How sad that the memory of #GeorgeFloyd has been lost in all of this.
— Lara Trump (@LaraLeaTrump) May 29, 2020

Illegal and should absolutely be prosecuted to the full extent of the law:Murder And as a reminder, also illegal:Theft and arson
— Lara Trump (@LaraLeaTrump) May 29, 2020

It’s really striking to see that Trump and several of his family members seem more concerned with taking down Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that dealing with the devastating events in Minneapolis, a deadly pandemic, and an unfolding economic crisis. But the president seems to be leaning in.
Since the social platform fact-checked one of Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots earlier this week, he’s been firing off unhinged rants and accusing Twitter of trying to stifle free speech.
Even today, as the people continue to mourn the loss of George Floyd and plead for justice, Trump is bashing Twitter on Twitter. So is the White House account.

Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party. They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

REVOKE 230!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, @Twitter has determined that it will allow terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform. pic.twitter.com/5Qi0m66Vnh
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 29, 2020

The President did not glorify violence. He clearly condemned it.@Jack and Twitter’s biased, bad-faith “fact-checkers” have made it clear: Twitter is a publisher, not a platform. https://t.co/lTm3Pxxaqg
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 29, 2020

In times of deep sorrow and nationwide distress, this is not what a president’s Twitter account should look like. Americans should be able to count on the president and those associated with the White House to — at the very least — not further divide the nation or incite violence.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario health officials provide update on province’s COVID-19 cases | LIVE – Global News

Streamed live 4 hours agoOntario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. David Williams provided an update Thursday on the latest COVID-19 cases in the province and discussed the public health agency’s ongoing response to the pandemic.Dr. Williams reported 383 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the province to 26,866.He also reported 34 new deaths due to the novel coronavirus, with a provincial total of 2,189 deaths. Meanwhile, 20,673 people have recovered from COVID-19, which is almost 77 per cent of cases.Ontario has completed 662,162 tests so far for the virus. This is up 17,615 tests from the previous day, which is back around the number of tests completed daily that Ontario was seeing a couple of weeks back.The province has said it has a testing capacity of over 21,000 tests.For more info, please go to https://globalnews.ca/news/6996652/on…Subscribe to Global News Channel HERE: http://bit.ly/20fcXDcLike Global News on Facebook HERE: http://bit.ly/255GMJQFollow Global News on Twitter HERE: http://bit.ly/1Toz8mtFollow Global News on Instagram HERE: https://bit.ly/2QZaZIB#GlobalNews #Coronavirus #COVID19 #Ontario

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Chinese State Media Introduces Animated Character Aimed at Americans, Terry-cotta

Gif: Xinhua/YouTubeChinese state news outlet Xinhua has introduced a new social media character in an effort to counter criticism of China in English-language media during the coronavirus pandemic. The cartoon character is called Terry-cotta, who explains that using face masks during a pandemic is good, that China isn’t hoarding PPE, and that Americans are very thankful for China’s donations of medical supplies. The new character appears in an animated video that’s made to look like a Periscope livestream, complete with comments by viewers and little hearts fluttering to denote approval of the message being conveyed. The name Terry-cotta is a play on the Chinese terracotta warrior sculptures that date from the third century BCE.“I don’t like masks either, but you know, with the virus out there, we better be cautious,” Terry-cotta says in a new YouTube video responding to an imaginary comment about masks being “stupid.”Another segment of the new video shows Terry-cotta addressing complaints that masks which have been shipped out of China in recent months were defective, a huge scandal in Spain, which has been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with over 236,000 covid-19 infections and more than 27,000 deaths.“Hola from Spain,” the imaginary Periscope comment reads. “Some of our hospitals complain your exported masks of poor quality. They could not protect medicos.”Terry-cotta sets the record straight, from the Chinese government’s perspective, insisting that the masks were never intended to be N95 quality. Instead, Terry-cotta insists, those masks were lower quality for everyday use on the street and shouldn’t have been ordered by a hospital.“Actually, what masks this company exported to Spain were masks for daily protection,” Terry-cotta says. “They are not up to the protective level of surgical masks, not to mention N95. Cases like this also happened in the Netherlands. Doctors and nurses, please ask your admin guys to get you the right kind of masks.”In reality, it’s not just the Netherlands and Spain which have complained of faulty masks from China. Finland, India, Turkey, the Czech Republic, and Canada have also imported faulty masks from Chinese distributors. Many of the faulty masks were supposedly N95 quality, according to Canadian news outlets, and China’s medical device regulators have reportedly cracked down on exports of faulty PPE.Terry-cotta also addresses questions about the “hoarding” of PPE, which the cartoon character denies by pointing out how much China is exporting at the moment. Terry-cotta also urges people who say tests kits made in China are faulty to “please follow instructions,” suggesting that medical professionals in other countries don’t know what they’re doing.A fictional Periscope commenter called “GunGene” writes, “don’t buy anything from Terry. There are viruses on his stuff.” The comment echoes xenophobic and racist sentiments in many western countries against people of Asian descent. The name GunGene is clearly a nod to lax U.S. policies on firearms.“You can say whatever you like,” Terry-cotta responds to GunGene, chuckling. “You’re welcome to stay away from our masks. Like going out into a crowd, and stay away from our ventilators if you’re hospitalized.”The video ends with an imaginary commenter from Oregon thanking China for a donation of medical supplies. The comment is based on the actual donation of 50,000 masks from Fujian Province to the state of Oregon last month.“Terry, I’m here to thank you for your donation of masks,” says Andrew in a Periscope-like comment. “I am from Oregon State Emergency Management Office. We received a batch of masks donated by Fujian Province and gave them to people fighting against COVID19 across the state.”“Well, thank you, Andrew. Good to know that our donations helped,” Terry-cotta says. “Please, do take care there, buddy.”The governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, tweeted about the donation on April 28, thanking “Oregon’s sister state in China,” insisting that the state would “pay it forward” in the future.Notably, YouTube is banned in China, so the audience for this video is the English-speaking world, with a clear emphasis on the United States. The animation is just one of many new videos released by Chinese state media over the past few months that seeks to change the narrative about China’s role in the pandemic. American politicians like President Donald Trump have insisted that China should be punished for the pandemic under the theory that it didn’t do enough to stop the outbreak which originated in Wuhan. The effort by Chinese state media is clearly an attempt to sway American opinion and ironically takes a page out of the American playbook of exerting soft power through popular media channels. In the 20th century, the U.S. dominated the world as much through popular media like movies and TV as it did through physical force and guns—though there was plenty of the latter, to be sure.Now it appears to be China’s turn to exert that same soft power in the 21st century, using new tools like YouTube, Facebook, and Periscope to get its message out during the New Cold War, even if those same platforms are banned in China. Terry-cotta may or may not take off as a popular media figure, but the idea behind Terry-cotta is going to be with us for a long time.
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U.S. Covid-19 death toll passes 100,000

The U.S. death toll of those killed by Covid19 passed 100,000 today, according to The New York Times. Johns Hopkins’ tracker, which does not include U.S. deaths aboard cruise ships, placed the death toll at 99,783 on Wednesday.

The toll is short of the true total, say experts, but the milestone, arbitrary as it is, is a reminder of the severity and persistence of the coronavirus pandemic even as lockdowns are lifted.

The toll exceeds the number of U.S. military combat fatalities in every conflict since the Korean War. It matches the toll in the United States of the 1968 flu pandemic, and it is approaching the 116,000 killed in another flu outbreak a decade before that. The pandemic is on track to be the country’s deadliest public health disaster since the 1918 flu pandemic, in which about 675,000 Americans died. Though the numbers of new cases and deaths have begun trending downward, health experts warn of a possible resurgence as lockdowns are lifted.

Concept design for a drill-like tool that augers wax out of your ear

From designer Nate Shirley, a “personal hygiene product intended for cleaning your ears. It uses disposable spiral cleaning heads that spin at a constant speed.” I wish he would Kickstart it! Image: Nate Shirley
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Wonder why Donald Trump is 6 months late on his annual physical?

It’s curious, isn’t it. It’s now 6 months after impeached President Donald Trump said he was starting his 2020 physical. He hasn’t completed the routine medical examination he said he started in November. The White House won’t say why. I wonder why.
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North Dakota’s COVID-19 contact tracing app leaks location data to Foursquare and a Google Ads ID: Report

Your concerns about the privacy and security risks of using state-run coronavirus contact tracing apps? They’re reasonable concerns.
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This emergency kit has all the provisions for the day you truly need them

“It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” – “Lonesome Dove,” Larry McMurtry If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared now more than ever. Emergency situations can happen quickly and there’s no telling when you may need […]
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Take the fast-track to project management certification with this three-course bundle

Just as in almost any industry that seeks high-demand, well-trained workers, certification often becomes key. For project managers, that means anyone who’s serious about serving in that role with a respected company knows they’re going to need the seal of approval in one of the field’s most recognized methodologies before they stand much of a […]
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This borescope camera snakes you into all the hardest to reach places for a good look

Popping a new battery in a smoke detector or adding salt to your water softener are easy fixes. But if you run into trouble or a necessary repair in a cramped, tight place, sometimes with no obvious fix or easy access, it can be a pretty frustrating exercise. Since flying blind is the absolute worst, […]
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How Pulse Oximeters Work #Health #COVID19

Pulse oximeters can measure your pulse and oxygen saturation levels non-invasively. But how do they work? It’s all explained in a new informative video from Technology ConnectionsIf you’re interested in purchasing a pulse oximeter, Adafruit has some for sale!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.Join 16,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community! http://adafru.it/discordHave an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7:30pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!Follow Adafruit on Instagram for top secret new products, behinds the scenes and more https://www.instagram.com/adafruit/CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers – CircuitPython.org
Maker Business — How 3M is able to ramp up production of N95 masksWearables — Hot glue magicElectronics — Have you met Charlie?Biohacking — Vitamin-C + Gelatin for Accelerated RecoveryPython for Microcontrollers — Virtually Maker Faire, HackSpace Magazine, and more! #Python #Adafruit #CircuitPython @circuitpython @micropython @ThePSFAdafruit IoT Monthly — Quarantine Clock, Smarter Than your Speaker, and More!Microsoft MakeCode — Arcade Mini Game in a Text AdventureGet the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a “maker business”, electronic tips and more! Subscribe at AdafruitDaily.com !

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Analyzing data from COVID19 R package

[This article was first published on R | TypeThePipe, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers]. (You can report issue about the content on this page here)
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The idea behind this post was to play and discover some of the info contained in the COVID19 R package which collects data across several governmental sources.This package is being developed by the Guidotti and Ardia from COVID19 Data Hub.
Later, I will add to the analysis the historical track record of deaths over last years for some european countries and try to address if deaths by COVID19 are being reported accurately. This data is collected in The Human Mortality Database.
Altough it may seem a bit overkill, it was such an intensive Tidyverse exercise that I decided to show pretty much all the code right here because that is what this post is about: I don’t intend to perform a really deep analysis but to show a kind of simple way to tackle this problem using R and the Tidyverse toolkit.
You might pick up a couple of tricks like the use of split_group() + map() to manipulate each group freely, using the {{}} (bang bang operator) to write programatic dplyr code, some custom plotting with plotly or the recently discovered package ggtext by @ClausWilke.

Let’s start by loading data from COVID19 package with covid19 function. It contains lots of information, but I will keep things simple and work only with Country, Date, Population and Deaths variables.

I wanted to focus mainly on the most populated countries of the world because some of them are among the most affected by the virus, so I created a function for that as I will use it more than once.

Starting with a basic plot. You have already seen this one a thousand of times.

ggplotly(
covid_deaths %>%
get_top_countries_df(top_by=Deaths, top_n=10, since=20200301) %>%
ggplot(aes(Date, Deaths, col=Country)) +
geom_line(size=1, show.legend=F) +
labs(title=”Total deaths due to COVID-19″,
caption=”Source: covid19datahub.io”) +
theme_minimal() +
theme_custom() +
scale_color_tableau() +
NULL
) %>%
layout(legend=list(orientation=”h”, y=0),
annotations=list(
x=1, y=1.05, text=”Source: covid19datahub.io”,
showarrow=F, xref=’paper’, yref=’paper’, font=list(size=10)
)
)

What about the countries most affected by the virus in deaths relative to the population? Pretty basic too.

ggplotly(
covid_deaths %>%
get_top_countries_df(top_by=Deaths_by_1Mpop, top_n=10, since=20200301) %>%
select(-Deaths) %>%
rename(Deaths=Deaths_by_1Mpop) %>%
ggplot(aes(Date, Deaths, col=Country)) +
geom_line(size=1, show.legend=F) +
labs(title=”Total deaths per million people”,
caption=”Source: covid19datahub.io”) +
theme_minimal() +
theme_custom() +
scale_color_tableau() +
NULL
) %>%
layout(legend=list(orientation=”h”, y=0),
annotations=list(
x=1, y=1.05, text=”Source: covid19datahub.io”,
showarrow=F, xref=’paper’, yref=’paper’, font=list(size=10)
)
)

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The first contact tracing app powered by Apple and Google has been launched

The very first contact tracing app powered by Google and Apple’s exposure notification APIs has gone live in Switzerland.
FAQ: What is the Google-Apple COVID-19 (coronavirus) Exposure Notifications system?
As announced on Twitter by EPFL yesterday, ‘SwissCovid’ is now undertaking a large scale pilot, with hopes that it will pave the way for public availability by mid-June.
As of today, employees at @EPFL, @ETH_en, @vbs_ddps and some hospitals and cantonal administrations can download the digital proximity tracing application #SwissCovid. This large-scale pilot paves the way for public availability by mid-June. https://t.co/E9hl43g8Ca #COVID19 #DP3T pic.twitter.com/Yqrags7zMg— EPFL (@EPFL_en) May 25, 2020

In an announcement the institute stated:

Several thousand people in Switzerland can now download “SwissCovid”, the official application for tracing contacts at risk of transmission of COVID-19, if they wish. “This is the first time that the operating system updates from Google and Apple enable its deployment and testing on such a large scale,” says Professor Edouard Bugnion, Vice-President for Information Systems at EPFL. He was at the heart of discussions with Google and Apple to have them adopt the “DP3T” protocol led by the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. Alfredo Sanchez, project manager, notes that “this gives a great responsibility to the Swiss testers, as many other countries intend to adopt the same protocol later on.”

One important footnote is that whilst the pilot is ongoing, the Swiss parliament will deliberate revisions to the law on epidemics. MPs must debate and approve the scheme before it is offered to the public, however recent research has suggested that as many as 70% of Swiss residents support the scheme.
This is the first large-scale testing of an app that uses Apple and Google’s exposure notification technology. As per the two companies’ stipulations, the operation is also decentralized:

SwissCovid operates in a “decentralized” way, which means that the operations that are essential from a privacy point of view are not carried out on a centralized server, but on each phone. The app uses Bluetooth to exchange and record the ephemeral proximity identifiers of other phones in the vicinity. These identifiers are kept on the phone unless a person is tested positive for COVID-19. In that case, their doctor will give them a single-use code that allows them to voluntarily share the ephemeral keys on their own phone that correspond to the days when the person was contagious. These keys are sent to a server managed by the Swiss administration.

Coronavirus and tech: Ongoing list of event cancellations, disruptions, product delays, and moreHave you listened to this week’s Android Central Podcast?

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#MakeCovidLonely: #MakeCovidLonely

With a second wave looming and feelings of loneliness on the rise, Covid19 can still feel abstract to many, making it hard to stick to physical distancing. The hero video of the #MakeCovidLonely campaign gave the abstract Covid19 virus a physical presence as an animated character out in the world. The message: Social distancing makes us lonely. But it makes Covid19 lonely too. And that’s the only way to beat it.
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Marcus Rashford receives special award for charity work during COVID-19 pandemic

By: Sports Desk |

Published: May 26, 2020 3:56:36 pm

Marcus Rashford honoured for charity work during COVID-19 pandemicManchester United forward Marcus Rashford received a special award from the from the High Sheriff of Great Manchester for his contributions to support those affected during the COVID19 lockdown in the United Kingdom.
Rashford was honoured with the Special Recognition Award for his charity work as he partnered with FareShare, a UK-based charity and community group aimed at overcoming food poverty and reducing food wastage in the country. Rashford hoped to raise enough money for the meals of around 400,000 kids. He managed to raise close to 20 million pounds in donations.
Posting his certificate of recognition and his experience on social media on Monday, Rashford tweeted a long four-part message, accepting the honour. He wrote, “Wouldn’t normally share these types of things but this certificate is not just for me, it belongs to you all. Each and every one of you that has contributed the few £s you can, you’ve all made a huge difference.
“2.8million children a week are receiving meals they otherwise wouldn’t have during this lockdown because of YOUR help. To be recognised by my city is a great feeling. From being young I knew that if I ever got in a position that I could help I would and I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved so far. Thank you all, you’re all superstars.”
Adding in another tweet, Rashford wrote, “And we won’t stop until children and their parents no longer have to worry about where their next meal is coming from. I appreciate you all, thank you to the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester.”

Wouldn’t normally share these types of things but this certificate is not just for me, it belongs to you all. Each and every one of you that has contributed the few £s you can, you’ve all made a huge difference (1) pic.twitter.com/tyTg3hOKze
— Marcus Rashford (@MarcusRashford) May 25, 2020
Rashford was lauded for his contribution by his teammates and fans, praising him for his magnanimity and thoughtfulness.
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covid19 & some computational-corpus linguistics

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A SHORT COURSE IN COMPUTATIONAL-CORPUS LINGUISTICS – using the R library text2vec – with a focus on working with (a controlled vocabulary of) multi-word expressions. Here we consider a Twitter corpus comprised of all tweets generated by the 535 voting members of the US Congress during the second session of the 116th Congress.
More specifically, we consider the usage of COVID19-related terms as a function of both time and party affiliation; we also investigate the conceptual relatedness of COVID19-relevant terms using a GloVe model and multi-dimensional scaling.
A cache of scalable & efficient methodologies for some common corpus-based tasks.

A COVID19 lexicon
library(tidyverse)
tweets_dir %
filter(category !=’race-ethnicity’) %>%
ungroup()
I have collated some COVID19-related terms from a few resources, most notably, this Yale Medicine glossary. Per this resource, each term has been categorized as one of the following:
unique(dictionary$category)
## [1] “cv” “interventions” “medical_response”
## [4] “prevention” “socio-political” “spread_of_disease”
## [7] “transmission”
As I have added terms, I have tried to fit them within this classification framework. I have also added a socio-political category to capture some of the civil-liberties-based rhetoric/protesting happening in the US in response to stay-at-home orders, as well as stimulus legislation, etc. COVID19 vocabulary as xlsx file. A good start, but could certainly be developed.
The table below illustrates the structure of the vocabulary for two COVID19-related concepts: ANTIVIRAL and HAND-HYGIENE. So, the descriptor_name column represents the higher-level concept; term_name column reflects the different (inflectional or orthographical) ways the concept can manifest in text. The actual form of the descriptor/concept is arbitrary.
So, as we move towards identifying/extracting COIV19-related terms from Twitter text, this vocabulary gives us the option to aggregate over terms to the higher-level concept (or descriptor). Some academic fields refer to this as the process of normalization.
dictionary %>%
filter(descriptor_name %in% c(‘antiviral’, ‘hand-hygiene’)) %>%
group_by(category, descriptor_name) %>%
summarize(term_names=paste0(term_name, collapse=’ | ‘)) %>%
DT::datatable(rownames=FALSE, options=list(dom=’t’))

Congressional Twitter Corpus (2020)
Again, our data set is a Twitter corpus comprised of all tweets generated by the 535 voting members of the US Congress during the second session of the 116th Congress. Code for extracting/building/updating the corpus using the R package rweet is available here, and the actual corpus as TIF/xlsx is available here. Updated 5/26/20
setwd(paste0(tweets_dir, ‘tweets’))
tweets %
mutate(created_at=as.Date(created_at, format=”%Y-%B-%d”))
Corpus composition:
data.frame(tweets=format(nrow(tweets), big.mark=’,’),
tokens=format(sum(tokenizers::count_words(tweets$text)),
big.mark=’,’)) %>%
knitr::kable()
Next, we quickly grab some details about US lawmakers from the united states project. The Twitter corpus and lawmaker detail data sets can then be joined via Twitter handle.
leg_dets %
rename (state_abbrev=state, district_code=district)

tweets1 %
mutate(screen_name=toupper(screen_name)) %>%
left_join(twitters %>%
mutate(twitter=toupper(twitter)),
by=c(‘screen_name’=’twitter’))
Some sample tweets:

text2vec framework for NLP ::
text2vec is a beast of a text analysis R library. Here, we walk-through the building of some common text structures relevant to many downstream applications – using our congressional Twitter corpus. As text2vec implements R6 objects (a mystery to me), the framework is a bit funky. So, we present some hacks, etc. here, specifically for working with multi-word expressions – in the larger context of building document-term matrices, term-co-occurrence matrices, GloVe models & co-occurrence-based graph structures.
With the ultimate goal of investigating (1) some historical- and party-affiliation-based variation in the use of COVID19-related terms on Twitter, and (2) the conceptual relatedness of COVID19-related terms

Tokens & tokenizers
text2vec, like other text analysis frameworks, operates on a token object, which for a single document/tweet looks like the following:
tokenizers::tokenize_ptb(tweets$text[2], lowercase=TRUE)
## [[1]]
## [1] “ohioans” “:” “request”
## [4] “a” “mail-in” “ballot”
## [7] “today” “from” “the”
## [10] “secretary” “of” “state”
## [13] “to” “ensure” “your”
## [16] “vote” “is” “counted”
## [19] “in” “ohio” “‘s”
## [22] “primary” “election.” “the”
## [25] “deadline” “to” “postmark”
## [28] “your” “ballot” “is”
## [31] “monday.” “https” “:”
## [34] “//t.co/gkdascowqc”
Tokenization, even for English, is a non-trivial task. The tokenize_ptb function from the tokenizers package is pretty good (which is based on the Penn Treebank model). But there are still two instances above, eg, in which sentence-final punctuation is not tokenized: election. & monday.. So, when we go to build word-level models, election & election., eg, will be treated distinctly.
This bothers me. The code below sorts this and other issues out. Resulting/re-built text can then be fed to any simple space-based tokenizer, and things will be clean. Tokenize>clean tokens>rebuild text>re-tokenize.
## tokenizer —
t1

Multi-word expressions & controlled vocabularies
Units of meaning often (ie, almost always) span multiple words and multiple grammatical categories. Here we briefly consider some supervised approaches to tricking tokenizers (and specifically text2vec) into treating a controlled vocabulary of multi-word expressions as single-units-of-meaning.

§ Some multi-word hacks
The spelling & inflectional variants of the COVID19-related concept FLATTEN THE CURVE are presented below:
flatten the curve | flatten_the_curve | flatten-the-curve | flattening the curve | flattening_the_curve | flattening-the-curve | flatteningthecurve | flattenthecurve
So, if a lawmaker on Twitter refers to the concept FLATTEN THE CURVE as flattenthecurve, without any spaces (& presumably prefixed with a hash tag), a space-based (or word-based) tokenizer will do right by the analyst investigating multi-word expressions. The same goes for flatten-the-curve and flatten_the_curve.
The form flatten the curve, however, will be tokenized as flatten and the and curve. Which is not helpful. Basically, we want to phrasify these three individual tokens as a single token. Such that in downstream applications, flatten the curve and flattenthecurve, eg, are (or can be) treated as instantiations of the same conceptual category.
The Collocations function/model from the text2vec package enables an unsupervised approach to identifying multi-word expressions, and results can be used to update token objects such that flatten the curve becomes flatten-the-curve. If flatten + the + curve is identified as an expression per the model.
Here, however, we are interested in a supervised (or controlled) approach, ie, we have our own multi-word lexicon of COVID19-related terms that we want phrasified. text2vec does not provide a straightforward way to do this. So, here we present a simple (albeit extended) hack.
multi_word_expressions
First: text2vec::Collocations builds out phrases in a piecemeal fashion. Long story short: in order to identify (or phrasify) flatten the curve as a multi-word expression, it must first identify (or phrasify), eg, flatten the. Then flatten-the and curve can be phrasified as flatten-the-curve. So, for multi-word expressions>2, we have to build out some component parts. Some multi-word expressions in the COVID19 vocabulary>2 words:
## [1] “flattening the curve” “drive thru tests”
## [3] “personal protective equipment” “flatten the curve”
## [5] “front line worker” “great american comeback”
## [7] “global economic cirsis” “return to work”
## [9] “high risk population” “god bless america”
A simple function for extracting component 2-word phrases from multi-word expressions>2:
new_two_grams %
unlist() %>%
unique()
A look at the “pieces” of our mutli-word expressions composed of more than two words:
## [1] “sars cov” “drive through” “drive thru”
## [4] “personal protective” “flatten the” “flattening the”
## [7] “front line” “high risk” “shelter in”
## [10] “long term” “stay at” “home order”
## [13] “home orders” “wash your” “wear a”
## [16] “work from” “working from” “dont bankrupt”
## [19] “global economic” “global health” “god bless”
## [22] “great american” “made in” “open up”
## [25] “paycheck protection” “re open” “return to”
## [28] “person to” “person transmission”
Then we add these “pieces” to the full multi-word portion of the COVID19 lexicon.
multi_word_expressions_replace

§ Some text2vec primitives
Before we can dupe text2vec into phrasifying our multi-word COVID19 terms, we first need to build two basic text2vec (data) structures: an itoken object (or iterator) & a vocabulary object. The former containing (among other things) a generic tokens object. Again, see this vignette for more technical details. Regardless of your text2vec objectives, these will (almost) always be your first two opening moves.
mo
Then we build a skeleton Collocations model per code below. But we never actually run the model.
model
Instead, all we want to do is assign the parameter model$.__enclos_env__$private$phrases our list of multi-word expressions.
model$.__enclos_env__$private$phrases
Using this dummy Collocations model, we then transform the itoken object built above. Here, transform means updating the token object to account for multi-word expressions.
it_phrases 2)
t2v_vocab
And now we can investigate frequencies for all forms included in the congressional Twitter corpus, including (but not limited to) our multi-word expressions.
term_freqs %
left_join(dictionary , by=c(‘term’=’term_name’))

descriptor_freq %
group_by(category, descriptor_name) %>%
summarize(term_freq=sum(term_count)) %>%
filter(!is.na(descriptor_name))
Some relative frequencies for spelling & lexical variants for a sample of multi-word expressions from the COVID19 lexicon.
term_freqs %>%
filter(descriptor_name %in% c(‘social-distancing’, ‘front-line-workers’,
‘flatten-the-curve’)) %>%
arrange(desc(term_count)) %>%
mutate(tf=paste0(term, ‘ (‘, term_count, ‘)’)) %>%
group_by(descriptor_name) %>%
summarize(relative=paste0(tf, collapse=’ | ‘)) %>%
DT::datatable(rownames=FALSE, options=list(dom=’t’))

So, the trickier/hackier part is complete. The text2vec vocabulary object now recognizes the multi-word expressions in our COVID19 lexicon as single units of meaning. And we can carry on.

GloVe model & COVID19 semantic space
The next piece is to build a GloVe model to investigate semantic relatedness among concepts included in our COVID19 lexicon. The general workflow here is:
Build a term-co-occurrence matrix (TCM),
Build an n-dimensional GloVe model based on the TCM,
Further reduce GloVe dimensions via tSNE, PCA, or MDS,
Plot terms in a reduced 2D space.
Here, we have the additional task of aggregating the TCM from terms to descriptors (or concepts), before building the GloVe model. The code below creates a simple table that crosswalks terms to concepts.
term_vocab3 %
rename(term_name=term) %>%
left_join(dictionary) %>%
mutate(descriptor_name=ifelse(is.na(descriptor_name),
term_name,
descriptor_name),
category=ifelse(is.na(category),
‘other’,
category)) %>%
arrange(term_name)

§ Term-co-occurrence matrix
Utilizing previously constructed text2vec primitives, we use the text2vec::create_tcm function to construct a term-co-occurrence matrix, specifying a context window-size of 5 x 5.
tcm
Then we implement the lvdr_aggregate_matrix function from the lexvarsdatr package to aggregate term vectors to a single descriptor vector (for forms included in the COVID19 lexicon).
tcm
Dimensions of TCM:
## [1] 42468 42468

§ GloVe model
We specify GloVe model parameters via the text2vec::GlobalVectors function, and build term vectors using fit_transform. Vectors are comprised of n=128 dimensions.
set.seed(99)
glove

Networks & lexical co-occurrence
Lastly, we build & visualize a co-occurrence network based on the previously constructed term-co-occurrence matrix. The lexvarsdatr package streamlines these processes, and enables straightforward extraction of sub-networks from large matrices. See package description for a more detailed discussion.
Below, we convert our count-based TCM to a positive point-wise mutual information-based matrix (via lvdr_calc_ppmi), and extract the 20 strongest collocates (via lvdr_extract_network) for five (cherry-picked) concepts included in the COVID19 lexicon.
network %
lexvarsdatr::lvdr_calc_ppmi(make_symmetric=TRUE) %>%
lexvarsdatr::lvdr_extract_network (
target=c(‘contact-tracing’,
‘flatten-the-curve’,
‘return-to-work’,
‘social-distancing’,
#’remote-learning’,
‘drive-through-testing’),
n=20)
And then visualize:
set.seed(66)
network %>%
tidygraph::as_tbl_graph() %>%
ggraph::ggraph() +

ggraph::geom_edge_link(color=’darkgray’) +
ggraph::geom_node_point(aes(size=value,
color=term,
shape=group)) +

ggraph::geom_node_text(aes(label=toupper(label),
filter=group==’term’),
repel=TRUE, size=4) +

ggraph::geom_node_text(aes(label=tolower(label),
filter=group==’feature’),
repel=TRUE, size=3) +
ggthemes::scale_color_stata()+
theme_minimal() +
ggtitle(‘A COVID19 co-occurrence network’) +
theme(legend.position=”none”,
plot.title=element_text(size=14))

Summary
So, more of a resource/guide than a post-proper. Mostly an attempt on my part to collate some scattered methods. And a bit of an ode totext2vec.

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