A lengthy outage for Facebook and its apps
Facebook and its family of apps, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, were inaccessible for over five hours yesterday, taking out a vital communications platform used by billions and showcasing just how dependent the world has become on a company that is under intense scrutiny.
The impact of the shutdown was far-reaching and severe, leading to unexpected domino effects such as people not being able to log into shopping websites or sign into their smart TVs, thermostats and other internet-connected devices.
In some countries, like Myanmar and India, Facebook is synonymous with the internet. More than 3.5 billion people around the world use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family, distribute political messaging and conduct business.
Explanation: Hours later, Facebook blamed the outage on changes to the underlying internet infrastructure that coordinates the traffic between its data centers. That interrupted communications and cascaded to other data centers, “bringing our services to a halt,” the company said.
New Zealand abandons its ‘Covid-zero’ strategy
Seven weeks into a wearying lockdown, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister, yesterday acknowledged an end to the elimination strategy that had given the country one of the lowest rates of Covid cases and deaths in the world, and had allowed its people to live without restrictions during most of the pandemic.
“We’re transitioning from our current strategy into a new way of doing things,” Ardern said. “With Delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult, and our restrictions alone are not enough to achieve that quickly. In fact, for this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases.”
The city of Auckland, where the outbreak is concentrated, will remain in lockdown for as long as the next two months, epidemiologists say, while the country continues its vaccination efforts. A 79 percent of people 12 and older have received at least one dose, and 48 percent have received two doses, according to data from the Ministry of Health.
At risk: Auckland’s outbreak has been complicated by low vaccination rates and rising cases among vulnerable people, including those in temporary housing. “We should have recognized the entrenched transmission in marginalized and deprived groups,” said Dr. Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago. “That’s what basically sustained the outbreak.”
In other developments:
Venice tries tracking its tourists
A tourist-weary Venice is taking drastic new measures to track visitors, including using hundreds of surveillance cameras and buying the cellphone data of unsuspecting tourists to aid in crowd control, in what the city’s mayor described as a bid at creating a more livable city.
The city plans to install long-debated gates at key entry points next summer. Day-trippers will have to book ahead and pay a fee, and some may be turned away if too many people want to come. But some Venetians see the plans as dystopian, and perhaps a ploy to attract wealthier tourists who may be discouraged by the crowds.
Quotable: “It’s like declaring once and for all that Venice is not a city, but a museum,” said Giorgio Santuzzo, who works as a photographer and artist in the city.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
How old is the Maltese?
There is little doubt that there were little white lap dogs 2,000 years ago. The question is whether the modern Maltese breed is directly descended from the pets Romans scratched behind the ears, writes James Gorman for The Times.
All dogs derive from the first dogs, just as all humans can trace their ancestry to the first Homo sapiens. But the notion of breeding animals toward an aesthetic and closing the breeding line dates back only to the mid-19th century, in Britain. “I don’t care whether you’re talking about a pug or a New Guinea singing dog or a basenji,” said Greger Larson, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Oxford. Breeds, by definition, are recent.
That said, people have bred dogs to chase animals or herd sheep or race for far longer. One such lineage, call it Maltese-adjacent, might be defined as “really small dogs with short legs and they require a lot of attention and people are in love with them,” Dr. Larson said.
That lineage was certainly around in ancient Rome — even if they bear no real genetic similarity to the Maltese in your life today.
Read more about the back story of a much-loved dog.