The Download: How a Zambian Mortuary Exposes the Real Covid Toll in Africa

The Download: How a Zambian Mortuary Exposes the Real Covid Toll in Africa

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that gives a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

How a Zambian morgue exposes the real covid toll in Africa

The morgue of Lusaka’s University Teaching Hospital (UTH), near the center of Zambia’s capital, is not the most pleasant place to conduct a clinical trial. In the cavernous interior, newly arrived bodies linger unattended. Others are stacked on open-air racks, where some go unclaimed for months. The stench is overwhelming.

But it’s here, among the cadavers of Zambia’s largest hospital, that researchers are finally close to solving one of the enduring mysteries of the pandemic: why Africa seemed to bear the brunt of the covid death toll experienced elsewhere. The truth, as it turns out, is that it wasn’t.

That’s the claim of a new study, not yet peer-reviewed, based on tests of corpses conducted by personnel equipped with nasal swabs and a high tolerance for the macabre. It is arguably the strongest clinical evidence to date that covid-19 deaths in Lusaka, and probably much of Africa, have been vastly understated. Read the full story.

Jonathan W. Rosen

The must reads

I’ve scoured the internet to find the funniest/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology today.

1 A new study turns everything we know about particle physics upside down
A particle called the W boson is much heavier than previously thought. (quantum)
Physicists are stressed by it. (CNET)

2 The War In Ukraine Has Spread To Google Maps
After Putin invaded, some mapmakers turned Crimea from a disputed territory into part of Ukraine. (slate $)
Hackers tried to infiltrate the Facebook accounts of Ukrainian soldiers. (The edge)
Holding Russia accountable for war crimes will not be easy. (The New Yorker $)

3 China wants to prevent web giants from abusing their algorithms
For example, by asking ByteDance how they work. (Bloomberg $)

4 Gig Drivers Get Killed While Working
Why isn’t more done to protect them? (the marking)

5 We Don’t Actually Know How Many Billionaires There Are
Mainly because they don’t want to be identified. (NYT$)

6 Could Twitter’s Edit Button Really Be a Good Force?
Editing typos is fine, but editing entire tweets would be extremely bad indeed. (Wired $)
Perhaps the company should focus on countering abuse instead?(FT$)
Elon Musk holds an AMA session to reassure anxious employees† (WP$)
With Twitter, you can now excuse yourself for tweets you don’t want to be tagged in.(CNET)

7 How do you live with a mental disorder that officially doesn’t exist?
The nature of complex trauma makes identifying triggers uniquely difficult. (slate $)
The children of Ukraine are deeply scarred by the war.(Wired $)

8 brands are putting serious money into the metaverse
But virtual spaces still attract few visitors. (Rest of the world)
The biggest problem of the metaverse? A lack of mainstream applications.(FT$)
Virtual reality was kick-started by a parachute accident in the 1990s.(IEEE spectrum)
Lego wants to make the metaverse kid-friendly.(WP$)

9 If you recently received a text from yourself, you are not alone
It’s part of a huge wave of spam. (NYT$)

10 People Are Quitting YouTube?
The number of subscribers is increasing, but creators say the number of views is falling. (a zero)
This restorer’s art restoration videos attract many viewers.(Artnet)

Quote of the day

“We have significant losses in troops. And it is a huge tragedy for us.”

–Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, admits to Sky News that Russian troops suffered heavy casualties during the war in Ukraine.

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these strange times. (Do you have an idea? Give me a call or tweet them to me

+ An oral history of Aqua’s perennial disco classic “Barbie Girl.
+ This sweet little man has the right idea
+ Orville Peck is back, with a brand new album and even more horse metaphors.
+ I really enjoyed it little tribute to friendship (thanks Robbie!)
+ Have you ever seen a bird chirp? Oh yeah, and whistle the Harry Potter theme tune.
+ Just watching this powerful balloon popping race makes me tired.
+ Movies based on video games are mostly garbage. Are these the only good ones?

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