Every Saturday, I publish this series called ‘Learning by Proxy’. It is a capsule of some of the stuff that I found interesting over the week along with some context to it. I hope you enjoy it.
I had mentioned last week that the government is turning against its people and in the pursuit of higher growth, many iron-fisted moves are being made. The Indian Government relaxed a bunch of labour laws, with some states suspending all labour laws. ALL.
Some more on it from Rajiv Bajaj:
“20 Lakh crores sounds good. But even those who know these things, no one I know has said WOW,” says Industrialist Rajiv Bajaj. “Seedha Sadha Economics I understand. This seems like a Ghoom-Phir Ka Stimulus. Maybe its just my ignorance.”- More previews from @themojo_in pic.twitter.com/EGqAZd4GQT— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) May 14, 2020
Also, I had mentioned cinemas are dying. Producers of a bunch of A-Lister movies decided to go directly to Online. A war of words has been on between the producers and cinemas.
Theatrics by a company that runs theatres. INOX decided to plant the first nail in its coffin. Read the comments, they are hilarious.
STATEMENT BY INOX ON A PRODUCTION HOUSE’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO RELEASE THEIR MOVIE ON AN OTT PLATFORM BY SKIPPING THE THEATRICAL RUN pic.twitter.com/NfqoYV2QRx— INOX Leisure Ltd. (@INOXMovies) May 14, 2020
Thankfully, not all governments are like India. Canada announced that they would boost wages for essential workers. They made a provision for $3 Billion which should provide the basis of the boost. Given the inhuman hours and pressures that these workers have been under, it is a great gesture.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government has reached cost-sharing agreements with almost all Canada’s provinces and territories for the wage boost for essential workers. The deal will see Ottawa put up three-quarters of the cost, with the provincial governments footing the rest.Source: GlobalNews
Building in the Sea
China has never been up to any good. But as the world has been looking away due to the troubles in their backyard, China is using this opportunity to consolidate its position in the South China Sea.
Last month, China caused alarm by establishing new administrative districts for the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos and naming 80 islands and other geographical features in the sea, claiming sovereignty over underwater features along the way. (Mischief Reef, in its natural state, was submerged at high tide.)Source: Quartz
As I had mentioned last week – the numbers will come clean now. Industrial output is said to have declined 16.5% in March 2020. Further, there was a decline of 0.7% for the entire FY20. The lockdown was in force for 9 days towards the end of March. According to the government we had been growing before that. An annual decline indicates that things were amiss much before. The government spent the whole year gaslighting economists and commentators.
Factory output growth was recorded at 4.6 per cent in February and 2.7 per cent in the same period last year. The data is likely to be revised due to lower response rate from the units from which data is collected, the National Statistical Office said.Source: Indian Express
Last week the Indian government announced an Rs. 20 Lac Crore stimulus. It involves giving loans to some MSME businesses and also providing liquidity to banks. Rs. 17400 Crores given to farmers sounds like a lot. But when divided by 8.7 Crore of them, it translates to Rs. 2000 each. It is a mere drop in the ocean and unlikely to serve any purpose. On the other hand, Nobel Laureates have been suggesting printing more currency and putting it in the hands of the poor to stimulate consumption.
Cash transfers to India’s poor are the right thing to do “not just morally but also economically,” believes Nobel laureate Esther Duflo.
“Businesses should be keenly interested in this (cash transfers) and very much behind (it)…because it is the most important thing to do in their self-interest,” the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of economics said particularly in the context of India’s coronavirus lockdown.Source: Quartz
The business of testing
The USA has conducted the most number of COVID test in the world. Since March, when testing began, they have conducted close to 10.5 Million tests. With the resurgence of CoronaVirus cases in Wuhan, the Chinese government is determined to test every person living in Wuhan – 11 Million of them – in 10 days! Are they doing a Trump or do they have lots of test kits that they are not making available to the world?
The tests need to be conducted within 10 days and should prioritize people such as those living in older compounds or in densely packed residential buildings, or people originally from outside of Wuhan who are more likely to travel between different places, according to the document. It is unclear how the department plans to meet the huge volume of testing kits required.Source: Quartz
Under normal circumstance, it takes years to develop any drug or vaccine. These are not normal times. Many countries and their regulatory authorities have given a go-ahead to pharma companies to start human trials for the coronavirus vaccine. There is, in fact, a website where one can volunteer to be a guinea pig for the study. They first inject the vaccine and then infect you on purpose to see if the vaccine works!
China, UK, US and even Italy are running tests on humans. Would this imply a new standard of ethics for drug trials in the future? For now, we do not even know if any of these would succeed or not. Let us hope one of them have found a solution.
Several countries still conduct voting through a painful paper ballot process. The reason – Online is not secure enough to conduct voting. Well, it is safe enough to close contracts, transact Trillions of dollars worth of cash, commodities, bonds et al every single day. But ONE damn vote is impossible, is it not?!! The actual reason is to subvert democracy.
Democracy Live’s portal is hosted in Amazon Web Services through the cloud provider’s security-focused FedRamp certified offerings for the US federal government. It also uses AWS’s “Object Lock” feature on voters’ PDFs to keep submissions from being altered or deleted. The system has been audited by third-party security reviewers Shift State and RSM Labs, although those reviews are not posted publicly. When Democracy Live is used in voting, the elections also undergo retrospective audits to confirm the results.Source: WIRED
Meet Artificial Meat
Meat is a big deal in the US. Americans love their pigs and cows (Not the way Indians do). A couple of years back artificial cell-cultured meat began to show up in stores. Cell cultured meat essentially grows proteins in Petri dishes – actually barrels. This has the same or perhaps better composition than real meat. The cattle lobby was up in arms and wanted brands to mention ‘Artificial Meat’ distinctly on the packaging. Then COVID happened. Will consumption shift completely?
Covid-19 has exposed the Achilles heel of the modern US meat system. As key meatpacking plants with sickened workers have been forced to pause production, consumers are facing the prospect of meat shortages in some places and higher prices virtually everywhere. Just one meatpacking plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is responsible for 5% of US pork production. When that plant and a handful of others stopped production in April because of worker illnesses, it decreased the slaughtering of beef cattle and hogs by 36% and 37% respectively, according to US Department of Agriculture data. The ripple effect was big: Already the price of meat and eggs have increased by 5%.Source: Quartz
Since we have spoken about vaccines, do you know how vaccination was discovered in the US? It was way back in 1721 that vaccination was imported to the US from – Africa! An African slave taught them how. It was called Innoculation. And the anti-vaxxer movement protested back in the day as well. Little surprise there.
The operation Onesimus described was a common procedure in certain parts of the world. What happened was that pus from an infected person was rubbed into an open wound of a person uninfected with smallpox. If one survived this procedure, one was thus inoculated against smallpox, and could never contract it. The procedure was done in different places. In Africa, in China, in India, in the Ottoman empire. Most accounts place the origin of inoculation in either China (where they would blow scabs up a person’s nose) or India, and in both places, it was largely a secret procedure whose technique was passed down mostly in families.Source: Quartz
Would you like to go to a restaurant that looks like this?
Planes designed like this
Source: Travel and Leisure