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Learning by Proxy

America – Testing – Space | Learning by Proxy

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.

When I started on the suggestion of a friend, I did not know how it would play out. This is the 10th edition already! I know some of you like it. Do share if you do.

Follow Up

China has already crossed into Indian territory and by the looks of it, the de-escalation suggested is because their goals have been met. They took a bit of the salami slice they wanted to. Read this piece on the Chinese strategy from Hindustan Times


Politics

Mr. President

Americans have a way of doing things that few others can.

The death of George Floyd, juxtaposed on the Pandemic where a disproportionately larger number of black people have died was like putting salt on an open wound. To make matters worse, this was not a stray incident, Ahmed Aubrey a young boy was shot in a residential area by while men just a few weeks back. The anger coalesced and spilt onto the street. 72 cities in America protested and many of them burned. The president instead of soothing the pain was searching for cayenne pepper.

If anti-fascists are terrorists, then does America represent the opposite?

The protests even reached the gates of the white house. And the brave president hid in the bunker!

US President Donald Trump was rushed to a White House bunker after hundreds of protesters gathered outside the White House, with some of them resorting to stone-pelting. The incident, according to the Associated Press, happened on Friday night as protests against George Floyd’s death spread to several cities. The AP report said Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks.

Source: Indian Express

And then he threatened to unleash the military on his people.

Declaring himself “your president of law and order,” President Donald Trump vowed Monday to return order to American streets using the military if widespread violence isn’t quelled, even as peaceful protesters just outside the White House gates were dispersed with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets.

Source: CNN

Reminds you of Tiananmen Square? Maybe all the hate directed at China is just love in disguise! You see we often do the worst things that we can to those we love the most.

The last time that social and economic inequality was rising, new political ideas were emerging, economic mismanagement and environmental factors led to agricultural failure, unmanageable national debt, and political mismanagement were rife; it was January 1793 and King Louis XVI was executed by the guillotine at Place de la Revolution in Paris. 

Revolutions tend to start in this climate.

G7 or G10 or G11

In the first post which I had written in this series, I had mentioned the oil crisis of 1973 which had brought the USA to its knees when the Saudi’s refused to sell them oil. This oil crisis led to an informal meeting of Western Finance Minister which resulted in the creation of the Group of Seven – G7. Seven developed countries for geopolitical purposes met each year to plan how to carve up the world, each year. The world has changed a lot in the last 50 years. Trump wanted the composition of this group to change. Perhaps rightly so.

“I don’t feel that… it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr Trump said on Saturday.

The G7 group, which the US hosts this year, includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the UK.

The president said Russia, South Korea, Australia, and India should be invited.

Source: BBC

Economics

Transparency

Closer home we have the PM Cares Fund. An opaque account that has been taking in Crores from every organisation that can afford to curry favours. At the same end of the Spectrum are US and UK who have been putting the country under greater debt and distributing the money to keep the shareholders rich. There is a growing call for transparency and the call to know who were these companies that were supported by the government.

While it’s not naming recipients, the UK-owned development bank said it will, sometime in the near future, provide information about the amount of emergency funding each lender has made available to help small businesses weather the coronavirus disruption.[…]

In the meantime, a firestorm is brewing in the US. More than $500 billion has been shovelled out through the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that provides forgivable loans to smaller enterprises. Controversy erupted when it emerged that large, publicly traded companies like Shake Shack had accessed the borrowing (the burger chain and others have since returned the money).

Source: Quartz

Flattening the Curve

In India, the lockdown has devastated several businesses especially the small ones. In addition to this, the stimulus announced has had little or no support for the small businesses. Now that the lockdown is being relaxed, India is having a ‘Hold my Beer’ moment. The number of daily cases has surged upwards from 4000 per day to close to 10,000 per day. The government had the entire population locked up for 8 weeks and did nothing to ramp up testing! And even now very little is being done. 

The city tested between 4,000 and 4,200 daily, even as the number of positive cases detected rose steadily. Mumbai has the capacity to carry out about 10,000 tests every day.

The city’s stagnant testing numbers were in sharp contrast to the daily testing figures for Maharashtra as a whole, which saw a 100 per cent jump over the same period — from 7,237 tests on May 1 to 14,504 tests on May 31.

Source: Indian Express
Source: @20ncounting [twitter]

Indian has the unique distinction of ending the lockdown as the cases began to surge.

As Rajiv Bajaj aptly said – “We seem to have flattened the wrong curve – The GDP Curve”

Business

Space

The US and USSR embarked on their respective space programs in the 1960s out of fear of one another. Once the fear died, so did the space programs. None of it has been for the want of Investment. 

The USA retired its Space Shuttle Program which had outlasted its expiry date by over a decade. In 2010, under the Nasa Authorisation Act, the Space Launch System (SLS) contract was awarded to ULA backed by Boeing. They have since taken in USD 18.6 Billion and delivered zero flights. SpaceX, the new kid in town has posed a credible threat to Boeing and this week managed to put a man in space for the first time.

With privately-led spaceflight, NASA will once again be able to send astronauts to low-earth orbit, expanding its scientific research and preparations for missions to the Moon or Mars. Today’s launch is also a crucial step toward a new orbital economy, which SpaceX founder Elon Musk believes will have the same impact as the internet.

Source: Quartz

Board Games

Charles Darrow is improperly credited for the creation of Monopoly. It was created by Elizabeth Magie, who in 1903 created the game in Washington DC. Monopolists were big in those days and Elizabeth, a stenographer would spend her nights trying to create this game, to create a world where anybody could be one. The lockdown has given board games a second life. Families can play them together. Most of them last for some time and they are very engaging. 

When most people hear “board games” they think games like Monopoly, Clue, and Guess Who?—household names that many of us played as children. The biggest companies like Hasbro, which makes Monopoly, would consider anything less than a million copies sold as a failure, says Englestein.

But hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed. Some of them, like Settlers of Catan or Pandemic, are fairly popular. But there are hundreds and thousands of smaller games that most people will never hear of. In this industry, selling 20,000 units is considered a success, says Englestein. While a single large mainstream gaming company may bring in $10 billion in annual revenue, the entire hobbyist industry could generate just $1.5 billion.

Source: Quartz

Technology / Science

Perception

When a professional tennis player delivers a service, the ball goes from one end of the court to the in about 200 milliseconds. The player at the opposite end of the court has already decided what shot he/she is going to play based on the way the ball is thrown up. Professional players can predict where the ball will go based on the shape of the body as the opponent begins to serve. 

Turns out we can hear hand movement even we don’t see it. So would hand movement have a role to play in communication? Can you predict what is about to be said?

There’s a strong chance that your conversation partner’s movements will leave an acoustic signature that you may be able to perceive, says Wim Pouw, a cognitive scientist at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and the author of a new study on this topic recently published in the journal PNAS.

Source: Quartz

Misc

The American Supreme Court has offered an incredible amount of protection to Cops who have killed citizens. Here is an incredible article from Reuters on the subject. Worth a read!

The Cyclone that landed in Mumbai caused rains in Patna. The winds were strong and took it all the way across, saving Mumbai from prolonged showers which we know the city cannot take. 

Signing off…