Summary of “Why political reforms can be bad for democracy”

“What matters more is whether political elites, and especially parties, serve as filters. Put simply, political parties are democracy’s gatekeepers.”
People either don’t realize how much parties have been weakened over the last half-century, or they are ignorant of the evidence that ineffectual parties put democracy on a path toward instability and even authoritarianism.
The ongoing process of diminishing the power of parties is actually endangering democracy, according to a growing number of experts and political observers.
“The weakening of parties has meant the weakening of government. People don’t like that, but very few people see the connection between political parties and government.”
The rise of political parties in the early 1800s transferred the responsibility “To keep dangerous figures out of the White House” from the Electoral College to the parties.
A system in which parties put presidential hopefuls through a rigorous process, where party insiders with political expertise were given a significant place of influence, would be a way for a party to then submit a candidate to the whole nation.
“That information is useful, even vital, to the task of picking a good nominee.”Masket’s study of political reforms in a number of states has shown that reforms that have weakened parties and given voters more input have counterintuitively made politics more opaque and less democratic.
“Each attempt to drive parties from the political sphere exacts a price on democracy, decreasing transparency, accountability, and other things we claim to hold important in our governing systems,” he wrote in his book, “The Inevitable Party: Why Attempts to Kill the Party System Fail and How They Weaken Democracy.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Life Inside China’s Social Credit Laboratory – Foreign Policy”

In what it calls an attempt to promote “Trustworthiness” in its economy and society, China is experimenting with a social credit system that mixes familiar Western-style credit scores with more expansive – and intrusive – measures.
“The social credit system is just really adding technology and adding a formality to the way the party already operates,” says Samantha Hoffman, a consultant at the International Institute for Strategic Studies who researches Chinese social management.
The Peking University credit center started in the early 2000s with social credit projects for tourism agencies, the Ministry of Commerce, and academic researchers.
The public blacklist has been incorporated by another incarnation of the social credit system – Zhima Credit, a service of the mobile payment provider Alipay.
Zhima Credit is an optional service embedded in Alipay that calculates users’ personal credit based on data such as spending history, friends on Alipay’s social network, and other types of consumer behavior.
She says the app doesn’t monitor social media posts “Nor does it attempt to measure qualitative characteristics like character, honesty, or moral value.” Zhima Credit is not a pilot for the social credit system and doesn’t share data with the government without users’ consent, she says.
The company is blending into the invisible web of China’s upcoming social credit system.
“To me, that’s what makes it Orwellian,” says Hoffman of IISS. The social credit system provides incentives for people to not want to be on a blacklist.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The demise of the nation state”

The current appeal of machismo as political style, the wall-building and xenophobia, the mythology and race theory, the fantastical promises of national restoration – these are not cures, but symptoms of what is slowly revealing itself to all: nation states everywhere are in an advanced state of political and moral decay from which they cannot individually extricate themselves.
The reason the nation state was able to deliver what achievements it did – and in some places they were spectacular – was that there was, for much of the 20th century, an authentic “Fit” between politics, economy and information, all of which were organised at a national scale.
There have been many moments in history when politics was suddenly expanded to a new, previously inconceivable scale – including the creation of the nation state itself.
As the growth of digital currencies shows, new technologies will emerge to replace the other fundamental functions of the nation state.
Militant religious groups in Africa and the Middle East are less engaged in the old project of seizing the state apparatus; instead, they cut holes and tunnels in state authority, and so assemble transnational networks of tax collection, trade routes and military supply lines.
The nation state became the universal template for human political organisation only after the first world war, when a new principle – “National self-determination,”, as US President Woodrow Wilson named it – buried the many other blueprints under debate.
The era of national self-determination has turned out to be an era of international lawlessness, which has crippled the legitimacy of the nation state system.
The history of the nation state is one of perennial tax innovation, and the next such innovation is transnational: we must build systems to track transnational money flows, and to transfer a portion of them into public channels.

The orginal article.

Summary of “‘I have no thought of escaping’: inside the Brazilian prisons with no guards”

At an Apac jail, there are no guards or weapons, and inmates literally hold the keys.
A visit to the Apac men’s and women’s prisons in Itaúna subverts all expectations about the penal system in Brazil, where overcrowding, squalor and gang rivalry regularly cause deadly riots.
In contrast with mainstream prisons, Apac inmates are addressed by name rather than number.
Another reason inmates uphold the strict routine of work and study required by Apac – under which no one is permitted to stay in their cells unless they are sick or being punished – is that an escape attempt would return them to the mainstream system, which all inmates have experienced before.
Apac prisons, coordinated and supported by the Italian AVSI Foundation, impose a limit of 200 inmates to prevent overcrowding.
Founded in 1972 by evangelical Christians to provide a humanising alternative to mainstream prisons, the system has now reached 49 jails in Brazil, and has branches in Costa Rica, Chile and Ecuador.
In mainstream prisons, tens of thousands are detained, sometimes for years, before their cases even go to trial.
Across town, in the open section of at the Apac women’s prison, inmate Aguimara Campos, 30, explains her role as president of the eight-member council of sincerity and solidarity, which organises some aspects of prison life and is a bridge with the administration.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Why Process Is U.S. Health Care’s Biggest Problem”

That’s why simply making a poor process electronic by implementing an electronic health record doesn’t lead to better quality or cost.
Health care technology is very effective when it is used to support a well-designed care process.
Examples of these systems include electronic alerts for medication interactions and reminders to ensure all steps in the care process for the pneumonia patient are followed.
There are two types of improvement systems needed to create a well-designed care process.
One is a improvement approach that brings members of an existing clinical team members together to improve an existing care process.
The second is an innovation process aimed at radically redesigning care.
One key process, screening the patient for health risks such as cancer and hypertension, resulted in over seven places in the EMR for the provider to look for relevant information.
Building the care process through careful understanding of what each process step delivers is critical.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A healthcare algorithm started cutting care, and no one knew why”

One of the most bizarre cases happened in Idaho, where the state made an attempt, like Arkansas, to institute an algorithm for allocating home care and community integration funds, but built it in-house.
A court wrote that “The participants receive no explanation for the denial, have no written standards to refer to for guidance, and often have no family member, guardian, or paid assistance to help them.” The appeals process was difficult to navigate, and Eppink says it was “Really meaningless” anyway, as the people who received appeals couldn’t understand the formula, either.
“You could argue everybody ought to get a lot more care out there,” he says, but an algorithm allows state officials to do what they can with the resources they have.
At the time, they knew it was some sort of new, computer-based system, but there was no mention of an algorithm; the math behind the change only came out after the lawsuit was filed.
It’s not clear whether the state has since started counting diabetes issues.
While the algorithm sets the proportions for care – one care level, for example, might be two or three times higher than another – it’s the state’s decision to decide how many hours to insert into the equation.
Fries says there’s no best practice for alerting people about how an algorithm works.
Her hours were briefly restored after a judge ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor in the federal lawsuit, only for them to be cut again after the state changed its notification system to comply with the ruling and reimplemented the algorithm.

The orginal article.

Summary of “A Cyberattack in Saudi Arabia Had a Deadly Goal. Experts Fear Another Try.”

Energy experts said the August attack could have been an attempt to complicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to encourage foreign and domestic private investment to diversify the Saudi economy and produce jobs for the country’s growing youth population.
“Not only is it an attack on the private sector, which is being touted to help promote growth in the Saudi economy, but it is also focused on the petrochemical sector, which is a core part of the Saudi economy,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an expert on Middle East energy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Some technical details of the attack in August have been previously reported, but this is the first time the earlier attacks on Tasnee and other Saudi petrochemical companies have been reported.
“If attackers developed a technique against Schneider equipment in Saudi Arabia, they could very well deploy the same technique here in the United States,” said James A. Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
The August attack was also a significant step up from earlier attacks in Saudi Arabia.
Starting on Nov. 17, 2016, computer screens at a number of Saudi government computers went dark and their hard drives were erased, according to researchers at Symantec, which investigated the attacks.
Government officials and cybersecurity experts in Saudi Arabia and the United States attributed the 2012 Shamoon attack to Iranian hackers.
The August attack was far more sophisticated than any previous attack originating from Iran, Mr. Thakur of Symantec said, but there is a chance Iran could have improved its cyberwarfare abilities or worked with another country, like Russia or North Korea.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Third Age of credit – TechCrunch”

Became for the first time “Objective.” Yet today, the cracks in that system are beginning to show, and we now stand on the brink of another revolution – the “Third. Age.” of credit.
In the future, people will be paid in real time, instead of waiting for work credit.
Right now we live in a world of gatekeepers: Centralized data aggregators, such as credit.
Per Experian, youngest people have the lowest credit.
Underwriting: Data will be aggregated into universal profiles from a wide variety of sources, such as credit.
The universal ID and contract will keep people from “Running to Mexico” with their credit.
In the future it will: More data points within credit.
In a world of smaller, local data sets that collaborate, bridging disparate data gaps will increase credit.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Your next computer could improve with age”

Google researchers have published details of a project that could let a laptop or smartphone learn to do things better and faster over time.
Litz believes it should be possible to apply machine learning to every part of a computer, from the low-level operating system to the software that users interact with.
Moore’s Law is finally slowing down, and the fundamental design of computer chips hasn’t changed much in recent years.
Tim Kraska, an associate professor at MIT who is also exploring how machine learning can make computers work better, says the approach could be useful for high-level algorithms, too.
A database might automatically learn how to handle financial data as opposed to social-network data, for instance.
“Machine learning makes it possible that the system is automatically customized, to its core, to the specific data and access patterns of a user.”
Kraska cautions that using machine learning remains computationally expensive, so computer systems won’t change overnight.
“The grand vision is a system that is constantly monitoring itself and learning,” he says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How exercise in old age prevents the immune system from declining”

Doing lots of exercise in older age can prevent the immune system from declining and protect people against infections, scientists say.
They followed 125 long-distance cyclists, some now in their 80s, and found they had the immune systems of 20-year-olds.
“Prof Janet Lord, director of the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing, at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the research, said:”The immune system declines by about 2-3% a year from our 20s, which is why older people are more susceptible to infections, conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and, potentially, cancer.
“Because the cyclists have the immune system of a 20-year-old rather than a 70- or 80-year-old, it means they have added protection against all these issues.”
The researchers looked at markers in the blood for T-cells, which help the immune system respond to new infections.
The researchers believe that being physically active in old age will help people respond better to vaccines, and so be better protected against infections such as flu.
A separate paper in Aging Cell found that the cyclists did not lose muscle mass or strength, and did not see an increase in body fat – which are usually associated with ageing.
Aged just 64, Jim Woods, is a comparative youngster in the group.

The orginal article.