Our picksTrust & epidemics; face recognition software & privacy; how to handle Huawei, and more

Published 6 February 2019

·  From Africa to America, lack of public trust makes disease outbreaks worse

·  Trump immigrant crime hotline struggles to achieve mission

·  Pentagon: Islamic State could come back in Syria within months after U.S. pullout

·  PayPal bans anti-Muslim fanatic Laura Loomer

·  Report: Foreign meddling had no “material impact” on midterm election

·  Active-shooter drills are tragically misguided

·  San Francisco wants to ban government face recognition

·  How to handle Huawei

From Africa to America, lack of public trust makes disease outbreaks worse (Laura H. Kahn, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
A public health crisis cannot be solved without trust. People must trust that political leaders have their best interests at heart. They must trust that government policies are based on science and the best available data. They must trust science as well as medications and vaccines. Without trust, the best laid plans for any crisis risk failure.

Trump immigrant crime hotline struggles to achieve mission (VOA)
President Donald Trump picked the grandest stage to unveil one of his first immigration initiatives: Appearing before a joint session of Congress a month after taking office, Trump announced the creation of a hotline to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants.
Almost immediately, the Victims of Crime Engagement hotline was immersed in controversy and confusion.
Trump’s critics saw the hotline, known as VOICE, as a cynical stunt that played to his political base, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars and perpetuating the false notion that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than U.S. citizens. Others wrongly saw it as a hotline for reporting neighbors, colleagues or strangers they suspect are in the United States illegally.
Two years later, the hotline continues on. Its hurdle is to go beyond the political powder keg of the immigration debate and help crime victims in ways that local courts can’t, such as providing details about whether their assailants have been deported.

Pentagon: Islamic State could come back in Syria within months after U.S. pullout (RFR/RL)
President Donald Trump has declared his intention to reduce U.S. military engagement in Syria, but a new Pentagon report warned that the extremist group Islamic State could then make a comeback in the war-torn country within six to 12 months and “regain limited territory.”
The report issued on February 4 by the Defense Department’s Inspector General warned that the IS group continues to attract dozens of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq each month, and maintains a flow of external donations.
IS is “regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria,” it also said.
In both countries, the Inspector General said, local forces remain heavily reliant on support from the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the IS group.

PayPal bans anti-Muslim fanatic Laura Loomer (Will Sommer, Daily Beast)
They’re not the first platform to say they’ve had enough.

Report: Foreign meddling had no “material impact” on midterm election (VOA)
A classified U.S. government report on foreign interference in the 2018 Congressional elections has concluded that outside meddling had no “material impact” on the integrity and security of the vote.
While the specific conclusions of the report by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments remain classified, the two agencies said in a statement on Tuesday they found “no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure” used in the midterms.
The two agencies focused on whether the physical or digital integrity of voting systems has bee compromised by hacking. DOJ and DHS did not say whether foreign influence campaigns targeting American voters — that is, disinformation and fake news campaign on social media — were successful in affecting the outcome of the election, a question which U.S. intelligence officials have said they have not attempted to answer.
The report comes 45 days after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Russia, China and Iran sought to meddle in the election, but their actions did not compromise the “nation’s election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the ability to tally votes.”
Director Dan Coats said at the time that U.S. intelligence did find “Russia, and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns targeted at the United States to promote their strategic interests.”
But Coats said the intelligence community “did not make an assessment of the impact that these activities had on the outcome of the 2018 election.”

Active-shooter drills are tragically misguided (Erika Christakis, The Atlantic)
There’s scant evidence that they’re effective. They can, however, be psychologically damaging—and they reflect a dismaying view of childhood.

San Francisco wants to ban government face recognition (Sidney Fussell, The Atlantic)
Is it too late, too difficult, or too ironic to try to stop it from becoming a city of surveillance?

How to handle Huawei (Economist)
Banning one of China’s leading firms from operating in the West should be a last resort