The Download: Abortion clinic surveillance, and China’s economic slowdown

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.

Anti-abortion activists are collecting the data they’ll need for prosecutions post-Roe

The Supreme Court is shortly expected to issue its decision on a challenge to Roe v. Wade that will—if a leaked draft version of the opinion holds—end federal protection for abortion access across the US. If that happens, it will have far-reaching consequences for millions of people. 

One of those is that it could significantly increase the risk that anti-abortion activists will use surveillance and data collection to track and identify people seeking abortions, sending authorities information that could lead to criminal proceedings.

Opponents of abortion are already using methods like license plate tracking, body cam recordings, and Wi-Fi networks designed to direct visitors to anti-abortion materials. If states go on to criminalize abortion, that data could be used by anti-abortion activists to try to prosecute people seeking abortions, even if they visit a different state where it remains legal. Read the full story.

—Abby Ohlheiser

The must-reads

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

1 How China’s obsession with zero-covid has crippled its economy
The country’s economic growth is threatening to fall behind that of the US following a series of savage lockdowns. (FT $)
+ Shanghai is poised to cautiously reopen from tomorrow. (Bloomberg $)

2 Electric vehicles’ biggest challenge? Charging stations
The roll-out of stations has been slow, partly because they don’t make gas stations money. (WSJ $)
+ Britain’s electric car industry is also suffering from a lack of battery plants. (Reuters)
+ Cargo e-bikes are becoming a more common sight on LA’s roads. (LA Times)

3 The US is in a free speech muddle over regulating social media
One of the pitfalls of being bound by a centuries-old constitution. (WP $)
+ Social media mocks women and trivializes their suffering. (New Statesman $)

4 China is preparing to send three astronauts to its new space station
Once it’s complete, it will be the only country to operate its own space station. (Bloomberg $)
+ A jamming device was recently discovered at the rocket’s launch center in Mongolia. (SCMP)
+ China’s surging private space industry is out to challenge the US. (MIT Technology Review)


5 The US is now the most powerful supercomputing nation
After regaining the title from Japan. (NYT $)
+ How two new supercomputers will improve weather forecasts. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Expectant mothers in India found solace in a mental health hotline
Now it’s shut down, they fear pregnant women will be forced to suffer in silence. (CNN)

7 Many Tongans are still without internet
Four long months after an underwater volcano severed the country’s connectivity cable. (Rest of World)
+ Here’s what it will take to get it reconnected. (MIT Technology Review)

8 How to save water while facing a megadrought 
Shortages are forcing city planners to get innovative. (Slate $)
+ El Paso was “drought-proof.” Climate change is pushing its limits. (MIT Technology Review)

9 NFT lending is booming
And it’s even more risky than buying them. (Protocol)
+ Don’t bet on funding your retirement with bitcoin. (Reuters)
+ The mysterious founder of memecoin Shiba Inu has disappeared. (Coin Telegraph)
+ It’s okay to opt out of the crypto revolution. (MIT Technology Review)

10 How Discord became the unofficial home of music fandom
While users love the proximity to their idols the platform gives them, the same old issues with moderation remain. (Pitchfork)

Quote of the day

“My new nickname is ‘The Queen of the Metaverse.’”

—Paris Hilton tells CNN about her latest business forays into the world of tech. 

The big story

The next pandemic is already here. Covid can teach us how to fight it.

June 2021

The worldwide response to covid-19 shows what can be accomplished when focus, determination, and vast amounts of money are all directed at one target. The pandemic reorganized the everyday practice of science, the pace of clinical trials, and the willingness of governments to provide funds for that work. 

But while covid-19 drew our attention to the threat of viruses, microbiologists have long worried that we have forgotten the threat of bacterial epidemics, and the looming danger that bacteria will become resistant to the drugs we rely upon. Or, to state this more simply: we need to treat antimicrobial resistance as an emergency too. Because it already is. Read the full story.

—Maryn McKenna

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.)

+ The perils of marketing your band when its name will automatically get any emails automatically diverted to spam.
+ This charred eggplant and walnut recipe sounds like the perfect side dish for summer barbecues.
+ If you’ve ever wondered why we measure the world the way we do, this fascinating book extract might shed some light on the situation.
+ If you enjoyed Inside, comedian Bo Burnham’s Netflix special last year, he’s uploaded an hours’ worth of outtakes on his YouTube channel. 
+ A conifer growing in a ravine in Chile is believed to be more than 5,000 years old—making it a contender for the oldest tree on Earth.

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