A company you’ve probably never heard of caused half the internet to go dark

Link: https://www.vox.com/recode/2021/6/8/22524024/fastly-web-outage-news-websites?mc_cid=1581e9eab7&mc_eid=983bcf5922


One of the reasons the Fastly outage seems so wide scale is that cloud computing service companies like Fastly are consolidating, leaving websites dependent on a shrinking number of providers. Even if there aren’t that many total outages, the fact that so many everyday sites rely on fewer cloud providers makes each individual outage feel pretty significant to an average internet user who just wanted to buy some stuff on Amazon and read the New York Times early Tuesday morning.

There are benefits to consolidation, explains Doug Madory, the head of internet analysis at the network monitoring company Kentik. For instance, a smaller number of cloud providers means it’s much easier to get those providers to deploy a particular security change. “The flip side is the liability [of] having a few megacompanies, whether they’re CDNs or other types of internet firms, responsible for a lot of our internet activities,” Madory told Recode.

In other words, when one of these megacompanies updates its systems and inadvertently causes an outage, the damage radius could be quite wide. This is what happened in 2011 when one of Amazon’s cloud computing systems, Elastic Block Store (EBS), crashed and brought Reddit, Quora, and Foursquare offline. After the incident, Amazon explained that engineers inadvertently caused technical problems that trickled down through its systems and caused the outage.

Author(s): Rebecca Heilweil

Publication Date: 8 June 2021

Publication Site: Vox recode

Why some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress want to bring back a tax break for the rich

Link: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2021/4/14/22375306/salt-tax-deduction-repeal



The debate over Democrats’ next move on infrastructure, which Biden has put forth as part of his American Jobs Plan, and whether and how to pay for it through taxes, is just getting started. Plenty of proposals are going to be on the table, including SALT. The White House has signaled some openness to it, but the matter is far from settled.

“If Democrats want to propose a way to eliminate SALT — which is not a revenue raiser, as you know; it would cost more money — and they want to propose a way to pay for it, and they want to put that forward, we’re happy to hear their ideas,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing on April 1.


According to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, if the SALT cap — which is set to expire in 2025 — were to be repealed earlier, it would overwhelmingly benefit those at the higher end of the income scale — the ones who were hurt by the bill back in 2017. The CBPP estimates that more than half of the benefit would go to the top 1 percent, and over 80 percent would go to the top 5 percent, of earners.

Author(s): Emily Stewart

Publication Date: 14 April 2021

Publication Site: Vox

The effects of Black Lives Matter protests

Link: https://www.vox.com/22360290/black-lives-matter-protest-crime-ferguson-effects-murder

Paper link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3767097



From 2014 to 2019, Campbell tracked more than 1,600 BLM protests across the country, largely in bigger cities, with nearly 350,000 protesters. His main finding is a 15 to 20 percent reduction in lethal use of force by police officers — roughly 300 fewer police homicides — in census places that saw BLM protests.

Campbell’s research also indicates that these protests correlate with a 10 percent increase in murders in the areas that saw BLM protests. That means from 2014 to 2019, there were somewhere between 1,000 and 6,000 more homicides than would have been expected if places with protests were on the same trend as places that did not have protests. Campbell’s research does not include the effects of last summer’s historic wave of protests because researchers do not yet have all the relevant data.

Author(s): Jerusalem Demsas

Publication Date: 9 April 2021

Publication Site: Vox

The Black-white life expectancy gap grew in 2020 — but it can be reversed

Link: https://www.vox.com/22285868/black-white-life-expectancy-gap-covid-19-health



That’s not to say every single white American has it great — that’s obviously not true. But, on average, Black people tend to face much bigger challenges for living the healthiest life possible. That shows up in the life expectancy gap: White people were expected to live nearly 79 years on average before Covid-19 and almost 78 years after, while Black people were expected to live nearly 75 years before Covid-19 and almost 73 after, according to the PNAS study. The Black life expectancy even before Covid-19 was equivalent to what the white life expectancy was in the 1970s — as though decades of progress in well-being and health care were suddenly erased.

Author(s): German Lopez

Publication Date: 23 February 2021

Publication Site: Vox

“We’ve made it so complicated”: Vaccine campaigns are failing to reach the most vulnerable

Link: https://www.vox.com/22275309/covid-19-vaccine-registration-sign-up-moderna-pfizer-johnson-jnj


From signing up for appointments to securing transportation to clinics, many of the people at the highest risk for severe outcomes and death from Covid-19 — older adults, essential workers, and minority communities — are having trouble getting vaccinated when it’s their turn. At the same time, some wealthier people or people at lower risk have gamed vaccine registration systems to get to the head of the line.

“A lot of my older patients are struggling to figure out how to do it in general,” said Margot Savoy, chair of the family and community medicine department at Temple University in Philadelphia. “We’ve made it so complicated.”

Right now, the priority for many states is scale. Some are setting up mass vaccination sites at public venues like stadiums to get as many shots into arms as possible, as fast as possible. However, some health experts argue that in addition to going big, communities should also go small, working through local clinics and community groups in order to reach the most vulnerable. It may come at the expense of speed, but it would help ensure equity in who’s getting vaccinated for Covid-19.

Author(s): Umair Irfan

Publication Date: 25 February 2021

Publication Site: Vox

Charging patients just $10 more for medications leads to more deaths

Link: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22276166/us-health-insurance-out-of-pocket-costs-research


Researchers at Harvard University and the University of California Berkeley examined what happened when Medicare beneficiaries faced an increase in their out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs. They found that a 34 percent increase (a $10.40 increase per drug) led to a significant decrease in patients filling their prescriptions — and, eventually, a 33 percent increase in mortality.

The rise in deaths resulted from people indiscriminately cutting back on medications when they had to pay more for them, including drugs for heart disease, hypertension, asthma, and diabetes.


It is difficult to come up with a study design that directly measures the effect of health insurance on health outcomes. These researchers overcame that problem by tracking the prescription benefits for people newly enrolling in Medicare when they turn 65. People with birthdays earlier in the year would be more likely to face higher out-of-pocket costs than people with birthdays later in the year, given the way Medicare’s benefits are designed. By comparing the data between the different age groups, using as a baseline an estimate of how much the patients would have been expected to spend without any cost-sharing, the researchers were able to isolate the effect of cost-sharing on the use of prescription drugs and mortality rates for patients.

Author(s): Dylan Scott

Publication Date: 10 February 2021

Publication Site: Vox

How a Black bioethicist makes the case for vaccination to people of color

Link: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2021/2/16/22266517/covid-19-moral-obligation-get-vaccinated


And in the Black community, if we’re just thinking about ourselves, I do think there’s some obligation there to not infect fellow members of your Black population. Black people on average tend to have housing situations with more people, so there’s more chance for more infection. Black people are more likely to be essential workers, working in grocery stores and places where they’re interacting. If they’re not vaccinating themselves, they have an effect on the Black community that they come into contact with daily.

Even if you can’t think about your moral obligation to the general public because of what medicine has done to Black people in the past and currently, I would encourage you to think about what not being vaccinated means for your family, your friends, your community.

Author(s): Sigal Samuel

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: Vox

Who has died from Covid-19 in the US?

Link: https://www.vox.com/22252693/covid-19-deaths-us-who-died



Death at this scale is difficult to comprehend, or visualize. To get a clearer sense of the shifting burden of Covid-19 deaths over time, Vox analyzed coronavirus mortality by age, region, and race from the past year, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Johns Hopkins University.

We found that while Covid-19 spared no group, it impacted certain populations more than others. Throughout the pandemic, people of color have consistently been disproportionately sickened and killed by the virus. They also died young: Of Covid-19 deaths in people under the age of 45, more than 40 percent were Hispanic and about a quarter were Black.

Author(s): Youyou Zhou and Julia Belluz

Publication Date: 16 February 2021

Publication Site: Vox

The rise in murders in the US, explained

Link: https://www.vox.com/2020/8/3/21334149/murders-crime-shootings-protests-riots-trump-biden


A new report, by the Council on Criminal Justice, found homicides have increased sharply this year across 21 US cities with relevant data: “Homicide rates increased by 42% during the summer and 34% in the fall over the summer and fall of 2019.” Other data, from crime analyst Jeff Asher, found murder is up 36 percent throughout the year so far, compared to the same period in 2019, in a sample of 51 US cities. A preliminary FBI report also found murders up 15 percent nationwide in the first half of 2020.

Author: German Lopez

Publication Date: 2 December 2020

Publication Site: Vox

Why scientists are more worried about the Covid-19 variant discovered in South Africa

Link: https://www.vox.com/2021/1/21/22240475/covid-new-variant-south-africa-uk-brazil-vaccine-coronavirus


On January 15, US public health officials warned that a more contagious variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 could dominate infections in the United States by March. That grim warning referred to B.1.1.7, a variant that was first identified in the United Kingdom.

But now, one week later, scientists are increasingly concerned about another variant that emerged in South Africa.

There’s evidence from several small, and not-yet-peer-reviewed, studies that mutations in the South Africa variant — known as 501Y.V2 and already present in at least 23 countries — may have a higher risk of Covid-19 reinfection in people who’ve already been sick and still should have some immunity to the disease.

Authors: Julia Belluz and Umair Irfan

Publication Date: 22 January 2021

Publication Site: Vox