2034, Part V: Navigating the Darkness

She applied to disable all avionics in one of her fighter squadrons, VMFA-323, the Death Rattlers, the only navy squadron aboard the Business and the only one that still used the obsolete F / A-18 Hornet airframe. She would have two days to modify the aircraft in port, and then all the extra time she could fly once she was underway. She would in effect turn one of her squadrons into a “stupid squadron”.

The squadron commander protested fiercely. He had told Hunt that he wasn’t sure all of his pilots were ready for this type of flight – without instruments, just by the seat of their pants. She had dismissed her concerns, not because she didn’t think they had merit, but because she had little alternative. She knew that in their next fight, they would fight blindly.

It was, of course, if she could find the Zheng He.

09:00 21 MAY 2034 (GMT-4)


Wedge just wanted to come home. Return to San Diego. Return to the beach. Return at 6 a.m. to the gymnasium, at 8 a.m. before the flight, to a first jump at 9 a.m., then lunch, then a second jump at 1:30 p.m., then after the flight and debriefing, followed by drinks at the officers’ club and a night spent in a bed which was not his. He wanted to wear his Ray-Bans. He wanted to surf the point at Punta Miramar. He wanted to talk shit to his squadron buddies, then come back to that shit when they did air combat maneuvers at Fallon Naval Air Station.

What did he not want?

He didn’t want to be in Quantico. He did not want the Master Sergeant the Marine Corps Headquarters assigned as his “escort while in WDCMA” following him. “What is WDCMA?” Wedge had asked the humorless master sergeant, who had shit for ribbons except a bunch of drill-field praise and a dozen good conduct medals.

“Washington, DC, Metro Area, sir,” Master Sgt had said.

“Are you fucking me?”

“Negative, sir.

In the weeks that had passed since Wedge had returned to the United States, or CONUS, as Staff Sgt alluded to, the two had had this exchange on several occasions. About Wedge’s denied request to have dinner with a former college buddy who lived near Dupont Circle (“Are you shitting me?” “Negative, sir.”), Or the Staff Sgt insisting on coming with him to the base theater when he wanted to see a movie (“Are you shitting me?” “Negative, sir.”), and finally – and perhaps most bitterly – whenever his forced stay at Quantico was extended by first a day, then two, then a week, then another (“Are you fucking whore piss me off? “Negative, sir.”).

The reason, theoretically, for Wedge’s longer stay was a series of debriefings. In the first week of his return home, he had gone through meetings with officers from the CIA, DIA, NSA, state and even the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. He had explained to them in detail the malfunctions he had encountered with the F-35, the series of troubleshooting procedures he had employed (including putting a bullet in the avionics – “When all the systems went unresponsive, I turned them off manually. ”—Which was greeted with skeptical looks by career bureaucrats and defense contractors), and he went on to explain his captivity. Or at least what he could take away from it.

“Tell us a little more about this Iranian officer.”

“Guy had three fingers on his right hand, a short temper, and kicked me. What more do you want to know? “

Bureaucrats scribbled painstakingly in their notepads.

Wedge was bored. This was the real problem. He spent most of his day sitting watching the news. “Thirty-seven ships,” he would often say aloud, as if from nowhere. Every time he said it, he hoped that someone – maybe the buttoned-up master sergeant – would rebut him and tell him that none of this had happened; that the Ford and Miller with all their escorts were still afloat; that it was all a dream, an illusion; that the only reality was American greatness. Wedge knew a number of pilots who had passed away from the Pensacola flight school a decade earlier. “We got our teeth punched,” Wedge said of the battle, running his tongue over his own missing teeth. In his second week at Quantico, he had a four-hour dental appointment, and it was the dentist who revealed the real reason he was being held on the base. After completing her job, a total of five teeth replaced, she raised the mirror for Wedge to take a look. “What do you think?” she asked. “You’ll be in good shape by the time they take you to the White House.”

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US Consider Sanctions Against Russia For SolarWinds Hack

The Biden administration is planning a broad package of measures, including sanctions, to punish Russia for the massive SolarWinds spy campaign that has struck the heart of the US government.

U.S. officials have previously said that To hack, which is said to have started at the beginning of last year, has directly affected at least nine federal agencies and around 100 companies. The officials have mentionned the attack was “presumably of Russian origin”, although the US intelligence community has yet to release its final conclusion.

The administration was also planning measures to secure commercial networks and improve third-party services, according to two people briefed on the matter.

“Russia-specific measures are being developed which will go beyond sanctions,” said one of those briefed on the matter, adding that they would be part of a “package” targeting Moscow. .

The envisaged measures underscore the harder line that Joe Biden’s administration is preparing to take against Russia on several fronts, from espionage to human rights, including the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, the leader of the opposition who accused Russian spies of nearly killing him with a nerve agent in August.

Hackers gained access to the systems by hijacking software in March of last year from SolarWinds, a Texas-based information technology company, alongside several other methods.

At least 18,000 companies and agencies were potentially exposed. Hackers then selected particular targets to pursue, hiding in their emails and impersonating legitimate employees in order to gain access to sensitive information in the cloud.

The departments of commerce, energy, justice and the treasury are among those who have admitted their systems have been breached.

Some cyber experts have described the campaign – which is ongoing – as the type of espionage that is common practice in most nation states. But others suggested it was possible it could go further, constituting recognition for potential future disruptive attacks, and urged the Biden administration to retaliate against Russia.

The potential action comes as Senate intelligence officials from both political parties have already complained about the disjointed response to the campaign to date. The Senate and House are holding hearings this week on hacking.

People familiar with the government’s thinking warn the Biden administration has yet to determine the full scope of the measures it would take. U.S. officials want to go beyond sanctions to bring criminal charges against specific Russians, according to those briefed, but that approach will rely on efforts by the U.S. intelligence community to explore hacks to attribute actions to individuals. people.

Anne Neuberger, former director of cybersecurity for the National Security Agency who is leading the administration’s response to the SolarWinds breach, said the U.S. intelligence community is still grappling with responsibility for the large-scale hack.

She told reporters at the White House last week that the total effort could take “months” and that the scale of the potential access “likely far exceeded the number of known compromises.”

She added that the hackers had launched their attack “from within the United States, which made it even more difficult for the United States government to observe their activity” because the intelligence community generally had no visibility on the networks in the area. private.

The Washington Post first reported the administration’s intention to punish Russia.

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You’re the frog in Peacock’s upcoming ‘Frogger’ physical competition show

What do you get when you mix Takeshi Castle with Frogger, plus an explosion of 1980s nostalgia-infused hairspray? A new show from NBC, apparently.

NBC’s streaming platform Peacock has ordered 13 one-hour episodes of Frogger, an oversized physical competition spectacle with 12 obstacle courses inspired by the classic game. That probably means a lot of neon lights, cartoonish sets, and a Konami-branded handful.

NBC Universal

“These physically demanding challenges will see competitors dodge treacherous traffic, jump over alligators and jump over hungry hippos to conquer the course,” the press release said.

The winner of each episode will receive a cash prize. Eureka Productions, the company behind Fantastic race and Meetings around, is casting the show now, and it’s open to U.S. residents 18 and over. It will tour in Australia from the end of May to the end of June. Good jump, hopes.

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French actor Gérard Depardieu accused of rape, an old case revived | Arts and Culture News

The movie star was not arrested when he received the preliminary charges on December 16.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday that French actor Gérard Depardieu was charged last December with rape and sexual assault after authorities relaunched a 2018 investigation that was initially dropped.

The office told the Associated Press news agency that the French actor was not arrested when he received the preliminary charges on December 16.

The Paris prosecutor’s office looked into the accusations after the case was leaked to the French media.

French media said the charges relate to allegations made by an actress in her twenties dating back to 2018. An initial investigation against the star was dropped in 2019 due to lack of evidence, but was subsequently revived.

French newspaper Le Parisien and BFM TV said the actress and dancer alleged that Depardieu assaulted her on August 7 and 13, 2018 at her home in Paris. The two met when Depardieu led a master class at his school, BFM TV reported.

The actress, who has not been named, first filed a complaint with details of allegations of rape and assault in August 2018 in the city of Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. The investigation was taken up by Parisian investigators, but was quickly abandoned.

Depardieu’s lawyer Hervé Temime was not immediately available for comment, but he previously said the actor “absolutely denies any rape, any sexual assault, any crime.”

A long career

Depardieu is one of the best known and most controversial stars in France.

He has appeared in 200 films over six decades and is one of the few French actors who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood. He won a Golden Globe for his performance in Green Card, a 1990 English-language romantic comedy starring Andie MacDowell.

His first big success in France was Les Valseuses, (Going Places), Bertrand Blier’s classic farce about two wandering thugs.

Before crossing the Atlantic to star in Green Card, Depardieu played a range of roles ranging from Jean Valjean, the thief turned saint in Les Misérables, to Christopher Columbus.

In 2014, he starred in Welcome to New York, the film based on the life of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former director of the International Monetary Fund who was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a maid. hotel.

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MIT Technology Review’s Covid Inequality Review Scholarship Announcement

At the start of the pandemic, some headlines argued that covid-19 was the great equalizer – because anyone, regardless of their circumstances, could catch it. In fact, it was clear that the virus was disproportionately and devastatingly affecting certain groups of Americans.

Black Americans, American Hispanics, Indigenous communities and other people of color have been most affected and die at much higher rates. People in prison have not been protected, and those living in poverty among the hardest hit. Schoolchildren from poorer backgrounds suffer the greatest academic setbacks, with lifelong repercussions.

We know many reasons, including frontline jobs that expose workers to the virus, economic strains, unstable housing and unequal health care that lead to worse outcomes. But there is much more to learn and much more to do about it.

To help explore these issues and help people tell their stories, we’ve teamed up Heising Simons Foundation to create five WITH Technology Review Covid Inequality Scholarships.

Each scholarship provides up to $ 7,500 financial support to help journalists report and produce stories about covidie inequality – and how it is tackled – in undercover communities in the United States. Applicants will be judged by a Expert Group which includes some of the most incisive journalists and savvy experts working today. Fellows will receive supervision and editorial assistance from our award-winning team; and the final results will be published in MIT Technology Review.

Applying for a scholarship is simple: just take a look at our description of what we’re looking for, then start submitting your application.

Who should apply

We offer two types of scholarships.

Freelance scholarships: Apply if you are a freelance journalist who is not already attached to a specific publication. You may come from one of the affected communities that you plan to report on, or you may know an important story about a group that you have come to know well.

Press room scholars: Apply for this if you are a journalist working with a specific outlet, looking for additional support to follow a story that is important to you and the readers you serve.

If you have journalistic background and want to tell stories about how covid affects people – and what’s being done about it –we encourage you to apply.

What we are looking for

Your story – or series of stories – will focus on a specific group of people and show how they were affected by covid-19. It will show human impacts and explore the types of disparities that exist in terms of exposure, safety, treatment or outcomes. It can examine how communities use technology, develop systems, or build alliances to overcome the problems they face.

MIT Technology Review is a publication about emerging technologies and how they are used, so we are particularly interested in:

  • The impact of vaccines and their distribution
  • Contact tracing, exposure notification and / or use of health data
  • How the pandemic is affecting the digital divide
  • Workplace virus monitoring and protocols
  • The impact of long covid on communities

They are above all human stories, with people at the center and a search for solutions at the heart.

To achieve this, we seek individuals who are committed to telling stories with care and dedication while maintaining high standards and upholding journalistic integrity. You don’t need to have a long history of healthcare or science reporting, but you should be determined, ready to challenge preconceptions, and be comfortable asking for help and follow advice.

What we are not looking for

These scholarships will not produce simplistic disaster narratives that emphasize pre-existing tropes, and we don’t want parachute journalism from journalists who have no history or insight into the communities they write about. This doesn’t mean you have to identify yourself as part of the community you offer to cover, but it does mean you have to show that you can report sensitively and thoroughly – and without putting them at risk during the pandemic.

How we will support your work

Successful applicants will receive up to $ 7,500 to report and publish their stories. The work will be produced in conjunction with the MIT Technology Review and published on our website – or co-published, in the case of newsroom exchanges. This money can be used to cover some or all of the costs associated with the story, including your own time, report expenses, and travel (where safe).

We will provide editorial support to all fellows, with regular check-ins with our editors and advice from our team. For Newsroom Fellows, we will coordinate with your publication team to help you get the most out of the project.

Our panel of judges

Applications will be reviewed by a panel of some of the leading journalists and voices on the topics we review.

Alexis Madrigal is a senior writer at Atlantic and co-founder of the Covid Tracking Project, which compiles, annotates and publishes high-quality data on the epidemic.

Mark J. Rochester is the editor-in-chief of Type Media Center, and previously was senior news director for investigations at Detroit Free Press. He has served on the national board of directors of Investigative Reporters & Editors.

Krystal Tsosie is a Navajo bioethicist and geneticist at Vanderbilt University. She defends research in ethical genomics that respects the rights of indigenous peoples.

Seema Yasmin is an Emmy Award winning journalist, poet, physician and author. She is currently the director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative at Stanford University and is a regular contributor to the covid pandemic for CNN.

Gideon Lichfield is the editor of MIT Technology Review. He joined the publication in 2017 after serving as a founding editor of Quartz and reported from Moscow, Jerusalem and Mexico City for The Economist.

Applications for scholarships are now open. The deadline for submitting applications is Sunday March 21, 2021. The selected scholarship holders will be announced in early April 2021.

The small print

These scholarships are for the United States only; Fellows must be legally able to work in the United States. Stories should be designed for text: While video and audio can be part of the output, your story should be centered on written journalism, which can include news stories, narratives, or data. Projects do not have a minimum time frame, but drafts must be completed by the end of 2021. All stories will go through review, fact-checking and legal review.

Here are some of the key elements that we will need during the first step of the application process.

  • A well-written outline of your story or project of no more than 750 words. We’re looking for a compelling case that gives insight into the people, places, information, and issues you’ll bring to light.
  • A reporting plan that includes (a) a proposed timeline and (b) an explanation of how you plan to covid-safe reporting on the communities you focus on. Speed ​​isn’t a factor in our decision, but it’s good to know how you plan to complete the task of researching, reporting, and producing your story.
  • A personal written statement (maximum 500 words) telling us about your previous work, your relevant experiences and your connection to the community you propose to cover.
  • Three samples of original works. If this is not available for free online (for example, it is behind a paywall, or only available in print), please provide PDF files.
  • Applicants for an Essay Fellowship will be required to submit a letterhead statement confirming that you have support for your publication.

Shortlisted applicants will be asked to provide more information, including a breakdown of how they would spend the scholarship, complete a questionnaire on the risks their project faces, and provide two letters of recommendation.

If you have any questions about this application process, you can contact Editor-in-Chief Bobbie Johnson at E-mail.

Click here to apply now

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Central Europe braces for third wave of coronavirus

Officials in the Czech Republic have warned the country’s healthcare system is on the verge of “utter exhaustion” and may need help from abroad, as central Europe braces for a third wave of coronavirus pandemic.

In the past two weeks, the country has recorded 968 new cases of coronavirus per 100,000 population, the highest infection rate in the EU in per capita terms, forcing many hospitals to delay treatment unrelated to Covid.

Vladimir Cerny, deputy health minister, told a press conference on Tuesday that if the trend continued, the capacity of hospitals would be exceeded within two to three weeks, and said the government was considering asking to other EU states to welcome patients.

“We are starting to talk about aid from abroad. So far the only official offer came from Germany, which offered a place for nine patients, ”said Cerny. “The current free capacity of hospitals in the Czech Republic is around 15%.”

Cerny’s warning comes amid wider concerns in central Europe about a pickup in the number of cases in the region, accompanied in some countries by the arrival of the variant that first emerged in the UK.

Slovakia – where a day-long screening exercise earlier this month found the strain to be responsible for 74% of new cases – suffered the highest number of Covid-19 deaths per capita in the world during the last week.

Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok said on Monday that he would ask other EU countries to send additional vaccines to Slovakia to help it cope with the “tragic” situation in the 5-country country, 4 million dead, where the death toll has exceeded 100 a day on several occasions in the past two weeks.

“I realize that other countries also have a shortage of vaccines, but Slovakia now, also based on the fact that we have the highest death rate, needs it most at the moment,” said he told reporters in Brussels, according to Reuters.

In Poland, where new variants now represent 10% of new infections, the authorities are considering stricter rules on wearing a mask and tighter border controls.

Line graph of patients hospitalized with Covid per 100,000 people showing Hospitalizations are increasing in most of Central European countries

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski warned on Monday that Poland was facing “more or less a month of uninterrupted increases [in case numbers]», And that the third wave would not peak until the end of March or the beginning of April.

“So far, prognosis suggests that the peak of this third wave will be on average between 10,000 and 12,000 cases per day, which, from the point of view of the health system itself, is a number we faced, ”he told TVN24, adding that“ it’s a scenario with a big question mark attached ”.

Hungary has also seen a sharp increase in the number of new cases, with infection rates in the past seven days 50 percent higher than in the past seven. Deaths have also increased.

Hungary’s chief medical officer Cecilia Muller said the ebb of the second wave in central Europe was disrupted by the arrival of the third, meaning the last wave “was starting from a higher level” than its predecessor.

During her daily press briefing, she warned that the “very virulent British variant” was present in Hungary and warned that “the possibility of an asymptomatic infection is much more dangerous”.

Workers at Budapest Airport in Hungary unload a shipment of Sinopharm vaccines this month © Zoltan Mathe / MTI / AFP

Budapest is hoping that an aggressive vaccination campaign – assisted by 5 million doses of Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, which begins delivery on Wednesday – will help slow the rate of infection.

Hungary was the first EU country to approve the Sinopharm vaccine, with Sputnik V, the jab developed by a Russian investment fund. The country’s right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban said he would take the Chinese vaccine because it was the one he “trusted the most.”

The surge in infections in central Europe has also raised concerns in neighboring countries. Germany tightened border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria last week in an effort to stem the spread of new cases.

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Sony’s FX3 is a $ 3,900 compact camera for filmmakers

Sony announced the FX3. As expected, the camera is essentially a A7S III with features from the company’s Cinema lineup crammed into a body that resembles the A7C. Its back-illuminated full-frame sensor has an effective resolution of 10.2 megapixels when shooting video and 15 stops of dynamic range.

The FX3 can shoot 4K footage with 10-bit 4: 2: 2 color sampling internally or output 16-bit RAW video to its full-size HDMI port. 8K is not on the table, but the FX3 can still capture 4K video at 120fps and 1080p video at up to 240fps and you have access to the company’s S-Cinetone color profile. Sony has also included an active cooling system inside the camera which it claims allows the FX3 to shoot videos for up to 13 hours without interruption.


Other main features include in-body stabilization which you can combine with active software mode for even more shake reduction, two CFexpress card slots, and plenty of mounting points to attach any accessories you might need. It will also come with an included handle that includes XLR / TRS connections and a 3.5mm headphone jack for audio monitoring. One thing you won’t find on the FX3 is the built-in ND filters. This is a popular feature on these types of cameras. Sony said TechRadar he didn’t include them to make the FX3 as compact as possible.

The FX3 will retail for $ 3,900 when it becomes available in mid-March. That makes it more expensive than the A7S III, but significantly more affordable than competitors like Canon’s $ 5,500 C70 and many cameras in Sony’s Cinema line.

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UK accepts EU request for more time to ratify Brexit deal | Brexit news

The one-month delay brings more uncertainty to an already fragile start to a new economic relationship.

The UK has agreed to allow the EU to delay ratifying its post-Brexit trade deal for a month, adding more uncertainty to the already fragile start of the new relationship between the two sides.

In a letter to the European Commission on Tuesday, Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said he hoped the EU “should be in a position to meet its internal demands” by the end of April and that the UK ” would therefore not be invited to extend the period of provisional application. “

The trade, security and fisheries agreement was signed on December 24, just days before Britain left the EU’s single market and customs union. The Commission has applied the deal on a provisional basis to give the European Parliament – which has veto power over the entire deal – until the end of February to consider it.

While the parliamentary vote would normally be seen as a formality, growing concerns from the EU about what the UK could do to tackle trade issues with Northern Ireland mean lawmakers could threaten to refuse their approval.

“We are now 10 weeks away from the reality of our new relationship with the UK,” Maros Sefcovic, the EU commissioner responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Brexit deal, told reporters in Brussels. “We have already seen some of the changes brought about by this and I think it is clear to everyone now that our partnership with the UK does not replicate or resemble its former membership in the European Union.”

The trade deals for Northern Ireland have been one of the most controversial parts of the UK’s negotiations to leave the EU and have sparked new disputes since the completion of the Brexit process at the end of 2020.

As goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK face border delays, the London government seeks to postpone the implementation of comprehensive customs checks on medicines, packages and supplies to supermarkets until 2023. The EU has already indicated that this request will be refused.

Gove and UK chief Brexit negotiator David Frost are expected to meet with Sefcovic on Wednesday to discuss Northern Ireland.

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Stykka StayTheF *** Home Cardboard Desk Review: Bad Shape

Leaning over a laptop and working on a kitchen table gets old quickly. At least it did for me last spring when the pandemic seized the United States. It’s even worse if you live with someone and you both try to work on the same couch. If your living room has not become a Planet of the Apes– style deathmatch, then congratulations. You and yours have vast reserves of patience.

The rest of us just want a workspace, even if it’s temporary, without squatting and scowling. This is what the Danish brand Stykka wants to offer with its Home Desk StayTheF ***. It’s not meant to be a permanent fixture. It is made to help you until you are back to the old office or have more permanent home office. All you get are sheets of corrugated cardboard with a few pre-punched holes and a pack of zip ties.

The $ 85 model I tested is around 30 inches tall, which is a typical desk height. You can also order taller versions if you prefer to stand, and you have a choice of regular white or beige cardboard. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, its structural flaws caused me to miss sitting at the kitchen table.

Cardboard construction

The problems start with the instructions, which are some of the worst I have ever seen. The illustrations do not exactly match the desk in front of you, and the images are so small they are almost unreadable. Just follow the more precise assembly video on the Stykka website (although it is accelerated for some inexplicable and difficult to follow reason).

The assembly consists mainly of folding the various pieces of cardboard and putting zip ties in pre-made holes to hold the pieces together. Some of the holes that the clips go through do not line up, so you will need to muscle them to line them up. Many of the holes look more like slits than circular, forcing the zippers into angles that don’t work. You’ll want to ream them with a screwdriver before. I used a pair of pliers to tighten the fasteners as well as possible.

I ended up running out of necklaces due to the wrong instructions so I had to stop halfway and buy more at a hardware store. If Stykka were just a little clearer, I wouldn’t have spent centuries wondering how to create the outlines in the edges of the desk (they happen naturally when you tighten the clips enough to create it).

A cardboard desk is a fun idea! Building it should have been playful, like a kid building a fort with discarded boxes. It’s a shame that I mostly felt frustrated.

Wobbly legs

Photography: Stykka

Cardboard desks will always be temporary, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for structural design flaws. There are a few on the Stykka. First of all, the side support under the desk consists of two layers of corrugated cardboard folded over on itself lengthwise. It keeps the tops of the legs together by zip ties, but there is no such support between the bottom of the legs, so they hinge at the top and wiggle.

The zip ties alone are not strong enough to tie the legs together and prevent them from bending where they meet the desk, so it is easy and common for both legs to pull outward – away from one another. the other – like the hind legs of a dog walking the ice. There are also no zip ties to join the bottom of each leg like there are on the top. It becomes a problem. The two separate pieces of cardboard that make up each leg slide and move independently of each other near the floor. I think this is the fatal weakness of the office.

Eating on it or putting down a cup of coffee just needed a big spill. I couldn’t trust him with my laptop or monitor. I ended up using it as a surface to organize other WIRED gear I was testing – lightweight stuff that couldn’t break, like outerwear – but they still ended up flying on the ground whenever I disturbed the delicate balance of the office.

On a Zoom call with the other WIRED reviewers, I put some guitar accessories on the Stykka and demonstrated it by pushing it around. Even though the legs stayed in contact with the ground the entire time, he resisted like a mechanical bull and dumped everything.

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Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 billion package is a risky experiment

How much is the fiscal stimulus too much? The debate on this issue among economists who support the goals of Joe Biden’s US administration has grown fierce. This is not a bad thing: politics should be debated. In this crisis, as in the financial crisis of 2008, the risks of doing too little must be weighed against those of doing too much.

But one thing is clear: The fact that too little stimulus was provided in 2009 does not mean that much more than it needs to be fair today. The policy should be judged on its relevance to current circumstances while recognizing the uncertainties and the balance of risks.

I have no objection in principle to the huge tax expenditures. Indeed, in January 2009I argued that the United States should run a budget deficit of 10 percent of gross domestic product until damaged private sector balance sheets are healed. Shortly after, I argued that we need to learn from Japan if we are to understand the dangers that Western economies face. I also recognized from the start that a pandemic is an emergency, much like a war. The policy was indeed to start on a war footing.

Nevertheless, it is essential to recognize what differentiates a pandemic from a financial crisis or a war. Unlike a financial crisis, Covid-19 will not necessarily create bad debt overhang that could suppress demand indefinitely. Instead, the balance sheets of people who earned well and spent little actually improved. Again, unlike a war, the pandemic does not destroy physical capital. So there is a good chance that the economies will recover really strongly, once the fear of the disease subsides. If so, the dominant part of the planned fiscal policy response should not be so much about short-term relief as it is about “building back better”, promoting a sustained increase in public and private investment.

Line graph of the output gap (difference between real and potential GDP, as a% of potential GDP) showing that estimates of excess capacity are now lower in the United States than in other large, high-income economies

This is the context in which the Debate over Biden administration’s $ 1.9 billion tax package must be understood. This is not a philosophical debate, but a debate about the size, timing and nature of the package. The protagonist was Larry summers, former US Secretary of the Treasury and chief economic adviser to Barack Obama, backed by Olivier Blanchard, former chief economist of the IMF. Both are Keynesians and supporters of the Biden administration. Summers even developed the “secular stagnationWhich justifies the use of fiscal policy.

Summers recently questioned the wisdom of the package in the Washington Post. He argued that stimulus measures equal to 13% of GDP (the $ 900 billion already enacted plus the $ 1.9 billion) “were very important, especially in an economy with extraordinarily soft financial conditions, according to forecasts. of reasonably rapid growth, with public spending needs still unmet. and a very large overhang of private savings. Budget deficits in 2021 on proposed plans will quickly approach World War II record highs as a share of the economy.

Column chart of the latest CPI inflation forecasts in 2021 and 2022 (%) showing that consensus forecasts for inflation are low even in the United States

This is undoubtedly a reasonable concern. The growth of the broad money supply is extraordinary. The IMF forecasts only a slight gap between real and potential GDP in the United States in 2021. It is quite possible that monetary and fiscal expansion on this scale will dramatically overheat the US economy. Against this backdrop, we do not see a significant resurgence in inflation expectations, as excess capacity is expected to persist in the global economy as a whole.

Some analysts seem to regard a sharp rise in inflation as inconceivable because it has not happened for a long time. This is a bad argument. Many once thought that a global financial crisis was inconceivable because it had not happened for a long time. In the 1960s, many thought that the inflationary surge of the 1970s was just as inconceivable.

Line graph of US bond yields and inflation expectations (%) showing that expected US inflation has risen, but at non-threatening levels

Many now seem to believe that lower unemployment will not increase inflation. But at some point, excess demand will certainly increase prices and wages. At that point, inflation expectations will start to move permanently upward. The 1970s and 1980s taught us that reducing them again is very costly, not only economically but also for the credibility of the government.

These concerns should not be taken as an argument against any other US budget package. But if Biden could ignore the political timing, it would make more sense to go for a smaller support package now and come up with a huge medium-term investment program later. In the meantime, he will see how the recovery went before proposing another short-term support program. But the administration’s point of view is clearly that it has a window of opportunity to change people’s lives and therefore needs to “act big” now, not later. He also clearly thinks that the balance of risk lies much more in doing too little than in doing too much. Hopefully, her judgment of promoting this huge package turns out to be correct.

Line chart of S&P Goldman Sachs commodity indices, rebased (January 1, 2007 = 100) showing commodity prices are rising, but not yet to spectacular levels

What is clear is that a big package will be even bigger for the eurozone, where the economic impact of Covid-19 on GDP has been worse than in the United States and the recovery certainly looks weaker . Nor is it an argument against shifting the balance of stimulus measures from monetary policy to fiscal policy. Such a change is desirable, since aggressive monetary policy tends to encourage excessive risk-taking in finance.

If passed, the $ 1.9 billion package will be a risky experiment. It might not be a bad thing if it were a little smaller than the one on offer now. Either way, one point is clear. The success of the whole is of paramount importance. Proving that an active government can deliver good things to the public is essential to the health of America’s democracy. I pray that the bet of the Biden administration succeeds.


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