Understanding exponential growth during the pandemic

I recently posted a link to a more easily understandable display of Covid-19 infections and deaths for every country. (Incidentally its creator, a high school student, had a brief profile written about him in the latest issue of The New Yorker.) But one thing it lacked was the ability to visualize the differential rates of growth in each country over time to better enable us to understand how the disease is spreading and what is meant when people say that one region lags behind another by so many days, and how to know if containment methods are successful.
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Trump has exposed the soft underbelly of American politics and institutions

George Packer writes that the Trump presidency has exposed how brittle are the institutions that people thought formed the solid basis of this country’s democracy. He looks at the factors that led to this state and says that those who believed that they and the institutions they served could serve as a counterbalance to Trump completely underestimated the fact that he thought of the government as if it were a private company and he was the owner and thus they had to do whatever he said.
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The new politeness was the old rudeness

My daily walk around the neighborhood is along a narrow path. A couple of days ago, as I was walking I saw a woman coming towards me. As she got near, she stepped off the path and went and stood 10 feet away on the grass as I went by. We smiled and waved at each other without exchanging a word. It struck me that this kind of avoidance would have been considered very rude just a few weeks ago, as is the case when people sometimes cross the street to avoid passing near someone they think of as undesirable and wish to avoid, but was now the polite and considerate thing to do.
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Why the mainstream media hates Sanders though he is the leader we need right now

Election year politics has taken a back seat to the coronavirus news but Donald Trump of course sees everything in terms of how it will affect his re-election chances. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has been active in pushing for more relief for ordinary people and not so much for big corporations. But as is often the case, in order to help the former, Republicans demand the latter and so compromises have been made.

Nathan J. Robinson writes that Bernie Sanders is the kind of leader the country needs right now at this time of crisis, not Joe Biden and definitely not Trump. While Biden has largely been quiet and when not has been wishy-washy and issuing platitudes, Sanders has been vigorously arguing for what needs to be done.
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Using the word ‘irony’

I use the word ‘irony’ on occasion. It is a problematic word in that it is often used in a wide variety of ways, some of which do not match its definition in the Oxford English Dictionary that describes it as “cruelly, humorously, or strangely at odds with assumptions or expectations.” Roger Kreuz reports on the work of psychologist Joan Lucariello who classified 28 different usages of the word and grouped them under seven general headings.
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Coronavirus cases dashboard

There is a lot of stuff being written about the Covid-19 pandemic and hard data threatens to get lost in the noise. Here is a dashboard that shows clearly the rates of positive tests, deaths, and recoveries using data provided by the CDC and the WHO for each country and for regions within some countries. Interestingly, this dashboard was created by Avi Schiffmann, a high school student in the state of Washington, who is clearly using his time at home to sharpen his computer skills.
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Post-mortem for the Elizabeth Warren campaign

One of the mysteries of this election cycle was the fairly sudden drop in Elizabeth Warren’s popularity that led to her poor performance in the early primaries and eventually dropping out. There have been several theories put forward and this article by David Dayen suggests that it was due to the pernicious influence of campaign consultants who think that they can ‘package’ a candidate to make their appeal broader but in doing so risk ending up removing the very qualities that made them appealing to the people who used to support them and now they seem less authentic.
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The challenges of suddenly teaching online

Now that classes in schools and colleges are being shut down, faculty have been asked to shift to teaching online. In my former life heading a teaching center at a research university, I know that teaching online is not easy and to do it well requires a lot of preparation and help from online course designers. Many faculty are reluctant to try online teaching for a variety of reason. Some feel that there is positive dynamic in face-to-face interactions that gets lost when mediated by technology. Others are simply technophobes who worry that they will mess things up and not know how to recover. Some faculty at research universities like mine are unwilling to expend the time because research takes priority and there is simply no great benefit to it. And finally some faculty simply don’t care. They long ago stopped putting any effort into improving their teaching and see no reason to start now.
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