It can’t be ‘big business as usual’ after coronavirus

2 Apr

Last week, a video went viral showing an angry Airbnb host ranting about the platform’s policy of allowing guests to cancel coronavirus-affected bookings penalty-free. The host seems to have believed a system of mutual obligation was in place between him and the company, and complained: “Maybe you’re good at big numbers, engineering the perfect algorithm, designing the […]

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Covid-19: do the shires even care?

2 Apr

As of last week the country went into lockdown. Yet outside the window of my study here in Somerset, for a few days at least, something like the usual number of cars continued to whizz past, and couples ambled along the pavement chatting merrily with those they encountered along the way. A makeshift sign was […]

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Why we must resist the corona-tyrants

1 Apr

I took a call from my mum while she was undertaking her state-sanctioned period of outdoor exercise on Sunday. “I’ve just seen a police car cruising around,” she said, sotto voce. “No sirens or anything. Just prowling. It drove past me; then it came back the other way a few minutes later.” To understand why […]

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Why we must resist the corona-tyrants

1 Apr

I took a call from my mum while she was undertaking her state-sanctioned period of outdoor exercise on Sunday. “I’ve just seen a police car cruising around,” she said, sotto voce. “No sirens or anything. Just prowling. It drove past me; then it came back the other way a few minutes later.” To understand why […]

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The WHO has failed us again

1 Apr

Like many doctors, Bruce Aylward has been working tirelessly since this coronavirus started its rampage around the planet, although his job takes him away from the medical frontline filled with patients fighting for life. The Canadian physician, a trained epidemiologist, is one of the most influential officials in global efforts to beat this pandemic through […]

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How likely are you to die of coronavirus?

1 Apr

The national conversation is dominated by coronavirus statistical models at the moment. The Imperial College model, the Oxford model, the other Imperial model.  I want to talk about the models, and what they tell us, because the outputs of these models drive the government’s response — and thousands of lives could turn on them. It’s […]

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Can they really arrest you for walking the dog?

31 Mar

The spectacle of police drones chasing dog-walkers around the Peak District was a lockdown low-point for many of us — including former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption whose trenchant intervention yesterday appears to have been heeded. But whatever your feeling about police tactics, you might be interested to know what the recently enacted law on […]

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Don’t trust the psychologists on coronavirus

31 Mar

Psychologists haven’t had a great few years. First there was the “replication crisis”, which kicked off in about 2011 and involved the gradual realisation that many of our best-known, most-hyped results couldn’t be repeated in independent experiments. Then there were the revelations that the American Psychological Association, one of the field’s most important professional bodies, […]

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Why doesn’t Britain value its farmers?

31 Mar

They say eight people in our little village have got this plague. It seems weird that it would have found its way here, to these isolated northern farming valleys, where the snow clings on to the high fells, and the woodsmoke rises from the scattered farmhouses. I always imagined that the apocalypse would look a […]

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The truth about lockdown in Leningrad

31 Mar

A few years ago I wrote a book about the siege of Leningrad, a brutal chapter of World War II history. Sitting in my office, working my way through dozens of heart-wrenching siege diaries, the cheerful noise of children in the school playground opposite came as a blessed relief. Today I’m at my desk in […]

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