What I'm Reading (July 8)

Controlling Big Tech, why is infrastructure so expensive to build and maintain, climate migration is altering the diseases we must confront, and a users-guide to breathing.

There is an ongoing concern about Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon’s control of our day-to-day lives. The government appears to be moving to address the issue through anti-monopoly rules that are a century old. Can we say, “bringing a knife to a gunfight?” Here is not so much a different solution but a clearer understanding of the problem. From The New Atlantis, Defying the Data Priests

“As transit researcher Alon Levy writes in a report for the Niskanen Center, “This is not about our wealth: there is no correlation between a country’s GDP per capita and its subway construction costs. Nor is it about geological factors: the biggest factor behind a project’s cost is what country it is in, and costs are fairly consistent even across different geologies ... This is purely institutional.”

… Turner explains that common theories like unions or the way we’re building roads or where we’re building them (for example, in more urban areas) are not supported by statistical evidence.

Time is money, money is power, power is delaying transportation projects.”

With all the talk about infrastructure, and as a citizen of the NY Tri-State area, I can attest we could use a lot of maintenance, let alone improvement. Why is it so expensive? From Vox, Why does it cost so much to build things in America?

Migration due to climate change is already underway. Animals, insects, bacteria, and viruses do not require “Green cards” to cross borders. 

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and the National Autonomous University of Mexico spent hours doing fieldwork, catching sand flies and rodents in Texas and northern Mexico to pinpoint the species’ range. They then incorporated this data into computer models that map ecological niches—the highly specific environmental conditions in which these sand flies can sustain a population—and also took into account how temperatures across North America will be affected by climate change. This allowed the international team to predict the geographical expansion of sand flies and Leishmania-infected rodents.

According to the models, by 2020, the rodent-fly-parasite habitat was expected to extend to Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri. By 2080, the results showed the habitat stretching as far north as southern Canada, exposing nearly 27 million North Americans to the disease.”

Leishmaniasis is just one of many diseases on the move. From Undark by way of The Atlantic, A Grisly Skin Disease Is Creeping Into the American South

In a year consumed by a respiratory virus, perhaps we should take a moment to consider our breath, so vital, so unconscious.

“For many people, the breath is something much more than just the purely physical movement of air. It is often described as the energy, life force, cosmic essence, the vital principle that permeates reality on all levels including inanimate objects. It is the spirit or the soul. Different cultures refer to the same phenomenon but by different names, such as: prana, qi, ki, lung, ruach, spiritus, mana, rouh and pneuma.

In yoga, the breath is considered not only the path of spiritual development, but also as a simple way of staying in good health. In the yogic breathing pranayama, the practices are well described, each with its own purpose – including energising, cleansing or relaxing.”

From Psyche, How to breathe