by Noah Carl
Wednesday, 27
September 2023

The cost-of-living crisis won’t lead to ‘thousands’ of early deaths

A new study makes a wildly exaggerated claim

A new study predicts that Britain’s cost-of-living crisis will cause a sharp rise in mortality. The study has prompted various alarming headlines, such as one in the Guardian that refers to “thousands of premature deaths”. But a closer look suggests that its predictions are unlikely to materialise.

Elizabeth Richardson and colleagues use data from Scotland to model how inflation will affect real household incomes, and how this in turn will affect mortality. Yet one of their key assumptions is highly questionable. In particular, they assume that the effect of income on mortality is given by the cross-sectional relationship between the two variables.  ...  Continue reading

by Henry Hill
Wednesday, 27
September 2023

Why the Conservatives have a shot in London

A new poll finds that the Tories are trailing Labour by three points in the capital

When the Conservatives won the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, there was a temptation to get carried away by the result.

Squeaking home by a handful of votes obviously had an outsize and useful effect on how the three by-elections were reported, but a result so heavily shaped by local factors cast only very limited light on the national picture.

Yet it seems the capital might be about to give Rishi Sunak another fillip: recent polling says the Tories are only three points behind Labour in the race for the London mayoralty.

Now, one swallow does not a summer make. Yet allowing that the odds still favour Sadiq Khan, the fact that a win for Susan Hall in May is apparently so plausible is remarkable, especially when the Tories are so far behind in the national polls. ...  Continue reading

by Katherine Dee
Wednesday, 27
September 2023
Dark Web

Could ChatGPT be your new girlfriend?

The AI language model can now see and speak

This week, OpenAI announced that ChatGPT can now “see and speak,” broadening its interactive range. “Settl[ing] a dinner table debate” and “request[ing] a bedtime story for your family” are among the list of potential use cases suggested. OpenAI seems to be positioning ChatGPT to be more than just a tool — perhaps an AI companion.

The impending rise of robot and AI companions has been circulating the tech news world for decades — even before the mid-60s, with Joseph Weizenbaum’s ELIZA — arguably the first and most popular example of a human-computer “chatbot”-style interaction. However, it’s taken on renewed significance with the rise of AI tools like ChatGPT, MidJourney, Replika, and ...  Continue reading

by William Nattrass
Wednesday, 27
September 2023

EU freedom of movement buckles under mass migration

Even Germany is acting to strengthen its borders

Freedom of movement, a cornerstone of the European Union, is under threat as countries throughout the bloc scramble to tackle illegal migration. After months of unilateral measures and bitter arguments between central European member states, even Germany — a nation which previously took a leading role in welcoming migrants to Europe — is getting in on the act by putting national border security above Schengen area norms. 

Germany will introduce new spot checks on borders with Poland and the Czech Republic in the coming days; cooperation with the Czech authorities was announced after Berlin threatened to unilaterally impose checks “in order to stop smugglers”, but no such co-operation has yet been reached with Poland. Unilateral measures are no longer unusual in the region, though, with various central European states having taken similar steps in recent months.  ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 27
September 2023

Google Pixel 8’s new editing feature is dystopian

The Magic Editor tool allows users to change people's faces and expressions

A video has leaked showing the new camera specs for Google’s latest phone, the Pixel 8, which launches in early October. The video demonstrates the new and improved Magic Editor tool, which, with the click of a button and the help of AI, will allow users to move subjects around in an image, erase objects or people, change backgrounds altogether, get rid of unwanted noise in videos, and, most creepily, change people’s faces altogether by swapping in expressions from other photos.

Apps like FaceTune, which allow users to easily tweak and tamper photographs in the pursuit of physical perfection, have already existed for years. However, the difference between FaceTune and the new Google Pixel is that the former allows users to distort memories, whereas the latter can manufacture completely new ones. Too many crowds during your city break to Venice? Remove them. Rained at your sister’s wedding? Replace clouds with a perfect pastel sunset. Your child throws a tantrum at their birthday party? Swap out their scowl for a smile. ...  Continue reading

by Philip Cunliffe
Tuesday, 26
September 2023

Joe Biden has revealed the Michigan strikers’ weakness

The President knows his presence will boost his authority rather than hurt it

There has been much talk of the revival of organised labour in the West in the last few years. And as president Joe Biden visits Michigan today in support of the striking United Auto Workers (UAW), this might well be true.

After all, no sitting US president has ever visited the picket line, despite over a century of bitter industrial warfare in the US, reaching right back to the titanic — and bloody — clashes in the railroad and steel industries in the late nineteenth century. Yet despite the seemingly auspicious prospects for US unions today, the truth is that President Biden’s visit reflects the enduring weakness of organised labour rather than its strength. ...  Continue reading

by Aris Roussinos
Tuesday, 26
September 2023

Is Ireland drifting to the Right?

A populist backlash is brewing

The Irish Republic has always been something of a political outlier — the historian Norman Davies once remarked that it is in some ways an Eastern European country marooned in the Atlantic — but in the 2020s, its greatest single divergence from the rest of Europe is its total absence of a viable Right-wing populist movement. But is this changing?

Certainly, if we accept the analysis that Europe’s drift towards Right-wing politics is less a product of Russian plots or nefarious misinformation but instead the expected response to the transformative demographic effects of mass immigration, then Ireland is remarkable as the dog that hasn’t yet barked. Other European nations like Sweden, Spain and Portugal, all theorised back in the 2010s to be politically immune from the first populist surge, now possess Right-wing movements either in or on the brink of assuming some degree of political power. But Ireland adopted a more or less open borders immigration policy later than other European nations, just as the rest of Europe began abandoning it, to a degree that even Europe’s most migration-friendly parties would now shy away from as electoral poison. ...  Continue reading

by Joel Nelson
Tuesday, 26
September 2023

Andrew Cuomo: lockdown would be more difficult now

The former New York governor says that people no longer trust the government

Former New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, at one point considered a hero for leading that state’s Covid response, has predicted that he would struggle to implement similar pandemic restrictions if another virus swept through the country.

In a recent episode of his podcast “As A Matter of Fact”, Cuomo discussed the Covid-19 pandemic with Dr Leana Wen, a Public Health Professor at George Washington University. The former governor said that, in a future pandemic, “the amount of compliance…would be much, much lower than it was in the beginning of Covid because people do not trust the government — especially on this issue.” ...  Continue reading

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