OUR PICKSThe Truth About Britain’s Covid Deaths | The Rise of the Crypto Cop | Can Forensic Science Be Trusted?, and more

Published 12 May 2022

·  The Truth About Britain’s Covid Deaths

·  The Rise of the Crypto Cop

·  The DHS Disinformation Governance Board is a Good Idea

·  Can Forensic Science Be Trusted?

·  It’s Time for Federal Counter-UAS to be Permanently Authorized and Consistently Funded

·  The Turkish Drone That Changed the Nature of Warfare

·  Ukraine Claims an Advantage in the Cyberwar Against Russia

·  DHS Details Preparations to Process Migrant Surge After End of Title 42

The Truth About Britain’s Covid Deaths  (Matthew Parris, The Spectator)
There has been a considerable hoo-hah in the press about the recent World Health Organization report estimating Covid-related deaths internationally during the pandemic.

Though its methodology has attracted serious criticism, I was struck by the report. But what really struck me has turned out to be of no interest to any of the media responses I’ve seen, which have all been about our outcome relative to those of other European countries.

What for me stands out is not the pecking order, but two quite different observations. Firstly, it is difficult to spot any obvious correlation between the pandemic—suppressing measures taken by different members of the WHO, and the outcomes in terms of excess mortality. This suggests we should be more tentative about what works, and probably have much still to learn about how such viruses spread. Mask-wearing was far less common in Sweden than in Britain, yet we had twice as many excess deaths, though most Swedes live in urban environments, like us. There’s a strong case for serious and exhaustive study of the role of masks involving human challenge trials, about which (to my bafflement) there seems to be some kind of academic horror.

Secondly, it may be said that it was due to elements in our lockdown strategy that we were able to limit the casualties. This is very likely true, though we don’t really know which elements.

To this second, serious, objection, I reply that precautionary behavior was already becoming and would fast have become the norm (indeed, it did in Sweden) without the panicky, stop-start, sometimes draconian and finally incoherent response adopted by government. There was no need for statute, no need for the police. Try to remember what exactly were the rules when Sir Keir Starmer allegedly broke them in Durham, and you’ll be reminded of the intricacy, impermanence and arbitrariness of each new set of regulations. Had we depended on social pressure and cultural change to marshal our precautions, the response would have been so much less jerky – and, importantly, so much easier for people to understand. We’d certainly have understood that outside was safer than indoors and that big sweaty gatherings could be super-spreading events, but we might not have closed schools or entangled ourselves in all the nonsense about ‘bubbles’, numbers of households or ‘essential’ as opposed to ‘inessential’ jobs.

There will be future pandemics. From this one I hope we can learn some lessons about cultural pressure as a resource, about the importance of steadiness, and about the imperative to do all we can to protect a national economy upon which, in the end, all our lives depend.

The Rise of the Crypto Cop  (Rebecca Heilweil, Vox)
The government is looking for tech-savvy detectives who can crack down on crypto.

The DHS Disinformation Governance Board is a Good Idea  (Gerald Walker, International Policy Digest)
If ever there was a need for oversight of online information, now is the time. Leading into a year of U.S. midterm elections, Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as a myriad of other issues, the Internet will no doubt be awash with disinformation.
To counter this problem, the Department of Homeland Security has decided to set up a Disinformation Governance Board that will monitor online conversations and tackle disinformation that presents a security threat to the United States.

Can Forensic Science Be Trusted?  (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic)
The story of a forensic analyst in Ohio, whose findings in multiple cases have been called into question, reveals the systemic flaws in American crime labs.

It’s Time for Federal Counter-UAS to be Permanently Authorized and Consistently Funded  (Patricia Cogswell, HSToday)
The U.S. civilian drone market continues to expand quickly, with Chinese drone manufacturers dominating U.S. and world markets in a variety of uses. Similarly, counter-UAS technology is keeping pace as more and more private sector entities recognize their risk from careless, clueless, and criminal operators, as well as those who mean to threaten or enact true damage.

The Turkish Drone That Changed the Nature of Warfare  (Stephen Witt, New Yorker)
The Bayraktar TB2 has brought precision air-strike capabilities to Ukraine and other countries. It’s also a diplomatic tool, enabling Turkey’s rise.

Ukraine Claims an Advantage in the Cyberwar Against Russia  (Nicolas Barotte, Le Monde)
Ukraine says that about 80 government-run Russian networks and digital systems have been damaged by targeted Ukrainian cyberattacks – among them Rutube, the Russian equivalent of YouTube, and the Russian domestic intelligence (FSB) website.

DHS Details Preparations to Process Migrant Surge After End of Title 42  (Bridget Johnson, HSToday)
Huffman said that CBP “is making numerous preparations to ensure we can scale our operations as necessary to respond to the areas of greatest need.”