Blackstone’s $4.7B Acquisition of Ancestry Raises Privacy Questions

Aerial Photos of Chinese Parking Lots Could Have Flagged COVID Last Year ; Sea Level Rise Alone Threatens to Crush the Global Economy ; and More Picks

Blackstone, Ancestry.com, acquisition, DNA, privacy
The author writes, “A deal involving one of the largest direct-to-consumer genetic testing companies has raised questions about what it will mean for users’ data. Private equity firm Blackstone will acquire Ancestry.com for $4.7 billion. Blackstone will take a 75% stake in the company, with one of Ancestry’s previous investors, GIC, holding the remaining 25%, anonymous sources told Bloomberg. Ancestry started off in 1996 as a website for users to trace their genealogy; nearly a decade later, the company expanded into DNA testing.” Photo credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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Texas A&M Disaster Expert: Aerial Photos of Chinese Parking Lots Could Have Flagged COVID Last Year (Reader Steve)

From the Houston Chronicle: “[Harvard] looked in China at hospital parking lots and health clinic parking lots to see how many people were going into the clinic. You can do that from satellite photographs, which the Chinese government has no control over. If a parking lot has got two cars in it for the preceding two months, but all of a sudden it has 100 cars, you can assume something’s going on. And if that’s not just in one clinic, or one hospital, but all the hospitals in the area, something’s wrong. Now, it doesn’t mean you can identify the disease. But the Harvard scientists who did this also looked at the Internet. You can buy commercially aggregated anonymized data that show search terms, people asking questions about particular symptoms of disease that they’re experiencing. Beginning in August of last year, they were querying exactly the same symptoms of COVID-19.”

Two Students Say They Were Suspended From Their Georgia High School for Posting Photos of Crowded Hallways (DonkeyHotey)

The author writes, “At least two students say they have been suspended at North Paulding High School in Georgia for posting photos of crowded hallways that went viral on Twitter. The photos show students packed into hallways between classes, not appearing to practice social distancing and with few masks visible, amid the coronavirus pandemic. … One of the teens who posted photos, 15-year-old Hannah Watters, told BuzzFeed News she received a five-day, out-of-school suspension for posting one photo and one video on Twitter.”

Bribery Charges in Ohio Illuminate the Dangers of Dark Money (Dana)

The author writes, “The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives was kicked out of his role last week after being arrested by the FBI on bribery charges a few weeks earlier. Larry Householder stands accused of taking bribes and turning those bribes into dark money, which is money spent on elections where the source is unknown to the public. His alleged crimes are exactly the type of scheme that campaign finance advocates have been warning of for years. At the federal level, over $1 billion in dark money has been spent since 2008, and dark money has grown in state elections as well.”

Sea Level Rise Alone Threatens to Crush the Global Economy (Mili)

From Gizmodo: “A new study shows we face a wet and costly scenario. In the climate-ravaged future, floods that hit once every 100 years would occur every 10 years—and it could cause $14.2 trillion in infrastructure damage globally. Yes, trillions of dollars. Published in Scientific Reports on Thursday, the new study takes a look at the consequences of sea level rise. By 2100, up to 20% of global GDP could be threatened by coastal flooding under a worst case scenario. Areas exposed to flooding could also increase by 48%, an area roughly the size of France.”

Scotch Whiskey Salvaged From 80-Year-Old Shipwreck to Be Sold at Auction (Dana)

From Forbes: “It’s called sunken scotch. And it’s practically a category unto itself: whiskey rescued from the cargoes of a wrecked ship, resting for untold periods of time below the tides. Every few years tales of brown spirit raised from these depths grab headlines, while the liquor itself fetches top dollar at auction. The latest example happens to be scotch salvaged from perhaps the most famous shipwreck of the modern era. And it’s expected to earn as much as $20,000 in an on-going auction now live, online. The bottle in question was retrieved from the wreck of the SS Politician. The ill-fated vessel ran aground during WWII and was at the center of a national firestorm shortly thereafter. On its way to Jamaica, by way of Western Scotland, the cargo ship was carrying some 28,000 cases of whiskey when it foundered on rocks along the rugged shoals of the Outer Hebrides.”

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