TechnologyThe Download

The Download: Monkeypox vaccines and Kansas’ abortion vote

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

Everything you need to know about the monkeypox vaccines

The global outbreak of monkeypox has so far led to more than 24,000 cases in over 80 countries, and the World Health Organization has warned that the window of opportunity to contain the disease and prevent it from becoming endemic outside Africa is rapidly closing. Vaccines represent a potentially crucial measure.

Monkeypox vaccines are already being deployed around the world, and news reports have described a “scramble” as countries desperately try to secure some of the limited number of available doses. There are concerns that poorer nations will go without. At the same time, there’s a lot we don’t know about how effective the vaccines are even likely to be. We spoke to vaccine manufacturers, virologists, and epidemiologists to get answers to the most urgent questions. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Kansas has overwhelmingly voted to protect abortion rights
It’s a significant victory for pro-choice groups in the conservative state. (BBC)
+ The decision is good news for the Democrats. (The Atlantic $)
+ The post-Roe backlash could influence the midterms. (CNN)
+ Where to get abortion pills and how to use them. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Weibo buckled under an influx of users tracking Nancy Pelosi’s plane
Chinese netizens are closely following her controversial trip to Taiwan. (Bloomberg $)
+ She’s going to meet with the chairman of Taiwan’s biggest chipmaker. (WP $)
+ An article explaining how Chinese people can buy cheap homes in Taiwan ‘after reunification’ has gone viral. (Vice)
+ 7-Eleven store TVs in Taiwan were hacked to display anti-Pelosi messages. (Insider)

3 The Earth recorded its shortest ever day in June 🌏
It suddenly spun faster, completing its spin 1.59 milliseconds short of 24 hours. (The Guardian)

4 Uber is making money for the first time 
It’s only taken 13 years and $25 billion of losses. (FT $)
+ The ride-hailing platform’s bookings have hit an all-time high. (The Guardian)
+ Charges of fraud against the company’s former security chief have been dismissed. (Reuters)
+ The gig workers fighting back against the algorithms. (MIT Technology Review)

5 We’re making progress in beating HIV
It’ll take time and money, but experts are optimistic that the virus is under control. (Economist $)

6 Your favorite gadget is built to die
Irreplaceable, glued-in batteries are to blame, and consumers are expected to just suck it up. (WP $)
+ Here’s some of the worst offenders, and some which can be repaired (for a price). (WP $)

7 Thousands of Solana crypto wallets have been drained 
To the tune of around $8 million worth of funds. (CoinTelegraph)
+ Robinhood has been fined $30 million for violating anti-money laundering rules. (The Register)
+ A man who threw £150m worth of bitcoin into a landfill plans to retrieve it with robot dogs. (The Guardian)

8 Lab-made collagen isn’t just for vegans
Scientists want to use it as a basis for making new proteins. (NYT $)

9 Inside the candy racket on Amazon with a sour twist 🍭
Sellers complain that rivals “drop-shipping” directly from businesses is undercutting them. (Bloomberg $)

10 Judges consult Wikipedia before making decisions
Despite the fact there’s no way of verifying edits before they’re made. (Wired $)
+ Wikipedia’s had enough of people messing around with its entry for ‘recession.’ (Bloomberg $)
+ This algorithm browses Wikipedia to auto-generate textbooks. (MIT Technology Review)

Quote of the day

“The party is certainly now over.”

—Serkan Toto, founder of video game industry consultancy Kantan Games, tells Reuters that the golden age of gaming ushered in by the pandemic has screeched to a halt, with the number of gamers playing and paying for games falling steeply.

The big story

Some artists found a lifeline selling NFTs. Others worry it’s a trap.

March 2021

NFTs have become an unavoidable subject for anyone earning a living as a creative person online, prompting a rush to understand a concept that is deeply mired in the jargon of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. Some promise that NFTs are part of a digital revolution that will democratize fame and give creators control over their destinies. Others point to the environmental impact of crypto and worry about unrealistic expectations set by, say, the news that digital artist Beeple had sold a JPG of his collected works for $69 million in a Christie’s auction.

Just as the trend is shuffling the deck on what is considered “valuable” digital art, however, it’s also re-creating some of the same problems that have plagued artists for ages: confusing hype, the whims of rich collectors, and theft. And as some artists turn their digital creations into profitable offerings for a new audience of friendly, enthusiastic buyers, there’s a question lingering in the background: Is the NFT craze benefiting digital artists, or are artists helping to make wealthy cryptocurrency holders even richer? Read the full story.

—Abby Ohlheiser

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ Here’s how the arts can make your life better.
+ Tony Hawk isn’t just a legendary skateboarder: he loves to sing.
+ This joke has tipped me over the edge.
+ A surprisingly sweet look back over what years of working from home has taught us.
+ I wouldn’t mess with this fearsome hound.

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