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How to Reach the Unvaccinated

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This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.

What does it take to get credible information about the coronavirus vaccine, and the vaccines themselves, to more people?

My colleague Sheera Frenkel spoke to experts and followed a community group as it went door to door in an ethnically diverse neighborhood in Northern California to understand the reasons behind the low vaccination rates for Black and Hispanic Americans compared with non-Hispanic white people.

What Sheera found, as she detailed in an article on Wednesday, was how online vaccine myths reinforce people’s fears and the ways that personal outreach and easier access to doses can make a big difference.

Shira: What surprised you from your reporting?

Sheera: One question I was trying to answer was whether the incorrect narratives floating around online about the vaccines — that they change people’s DNA or are a means of government control — were reaching Black and Hispanic communities and other people of color in the real world. I heard false information like that firsthand. It was eye opening.

The other surprise was how effective it was for someone to stand on a person’s doorstep and talk about their own experience getting a coronavirus vaccine and answer questions. The outreach group talked to each household for half an hour or longer sometimes. That may make more of a difference than any online health campaign ever could.

But it’s laborious to go door to door. Can reliable information ever travel as far and fast as misinformation?

Internet platforms amplify misinformation, and countering it isn’t simple. It takes more than a celebrity posting a vaccine selfie on Instagram.

Are we overstating the impact of vaccine hesitancy? The pediatrician Rhea Boyd recently wrote in our Opinion section that the primary barrier to Covid-19 vaccinations among Black Americans is a lack of access, not wariness about getting the shot.

It’s both.

Two things struck me from my reporting. First, false vaccine information is persuasive because it builds on something that people know to be true: The medical community has mistreated people of color, and the bias continues. And second, vaccine hesitancy is different in each community.

That makes reaching Black Americans different than reaching new immigrants who are reading articles in Vietnamese or Chinese that make them concerned about vaccine safety. It’s an opportunity for community leaders to address what’s keeping people who trust them from getting vaccinated.

You’ve written about Russian propaganda in Latin America that fanned concerns about European and American coronavirus vaccines. Is that also reaching people in the United States?

Yes. Two Russian state-backed media networks, Sputnik and Russia Today, have among the most popular Spanish-language Facebook pages in the world. Their news reaches Spanish speakers in the United States.

I heard people ask in my reporting, Why should they get an American vaccine when the Russian one is better? (Those articles tend to cite real statistics but in misleading contexts.) I asked one man I met, George Rodriguez, where he had read that, and we figured out that it was from one of those Russian news sites.

What has been effective at increasing the coronavirus vaccination rates among Black and Latino Americans?

It seems effective to hold walk-in vaccination clinics. People can show up, ask questions they have and get a shot.

What about Republicans? Surveys show that they are among the wariest Americans about coronavirus vaccines.

There have been concerns among some Republicans that people will be forced to get vaccinated, but that isn’t happening.

It’s clear that among Republicans and other groups with vaccine hesitancy, once we know more people who are getting vaccinated, we’re more willing to do it, too.

How do you see this moving forward?

In just the last few weeks, I’ve gotten more optimistic about closing the vaccination gap. There have been huge strides in reaching people, getting those walk-in vaccination clinics open or taking vaccines to people, and addressing people’s concerns.

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It’s worth paying attention when China, the United States and Europe are all seeking some measure of technology independence.

My colleagues Paul Mozur and Steven Lee Myers wrote on Wednesday about Chinese government officials’ urgency to reduce their country’s reliance on foreign technology — including high-end computer chips and artificial intelligence software.

China has long been a country where homegrown technology rules. But increasingly, Paul and Steven wrote, China’s “leaders are accelerating plans to go it alone.”

The United States is definitely not China. But as I wrote in a recent newsletter, there is a growing consensus among American policymakers and corporate executives that the United States needs to manufacture or develop more essential technology, including computer chips and complex batteries, within the country’s borders. The European Union also is aiming for this.

The zeal for technology autarky underscores two points. First, more technologies are becoming — like barrels of oil or emergency vaccine stockpiles — something that countries consider important to national security. And second, the line between pragmatism and nationalism gets fuzzier by the day.

It’s probably impossible for any country to become fully independent in technology, as Paul and Steven wrote. More self-reliance may still be worthwhile, but it’s tricky to know when a desire for more homegrown technology is necessary, and when it’s a waste of money, self-defeating or even dangerous.

The European Union and the United States want to throw taxpayer money at building computer chip factories, and that could be helpful. Or that may prove a waste of money if the factories sit idle.

And desires for more American tech independence or “beating” China in tech areas like A.I. or 5G can sometimes be a justification for U.S. policymakers and companies to plow more money into surveillance technology.

Tech self-sufficiency is a goal that sounds completely sensible. The devil, as always, is in the details.


  • Governments wrestling the internet to the ground, example infinity: The Russian government said that it was slowing down the speed of Twitter in the country and accused the company of failing to effectively remove posts containing illegal content. My colleagues Anton Troianovski and Andrew E. Kramer wrote that Russia “is escalating its offensive against American internet companies that have long provided a haven for freedom of expression.”

  • DO NOT mess with the library: A Washington Post columnist found that, unlike other big book publishers, Amazon won’t sell e-books and audiobooks that the company publishes to public libraries. “The case of the vanishing e-books shows how tech monopolies hurt us not just as consumers, but as citizens,” he wrote.

  • Why watching TV requires a Ph.D.: Oprah’s interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry … well, good luck trying to find it online in a month. Ed Lee and Nicole Sperling show how new TV has replicated the messy business dealings of old TV, and made it harder for us.

I have been watching a British nature series and discovered that I love the native red squirrels in that country. Look at their adorable tufted ears!


We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

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Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries with palm scan

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Whole Foods will soon let customers pay for groceries using its parent company’s palm-scanning technology.

Amazon said Wednesday its palm-scanning system — currently used in about a dozen of its brick and mortar stores — will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the first of many planned rollouts at other locations.

The system uses Amazon One technology, which employs high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a “unique palm signature” based on the ridges, lines and veins in each person’s hand.

Its high-tech sensors don’t require users to touch the scanning surface, like Apple’s fingerprint technology does.

Instead, palm-reading tech uses computer vision and depth geometry to process and identify the shape and size of each hand they scan before charging a credit card on file.

Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Amazon One will debut at a Whole Foods in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, with many rollouts at other locations planned for the future.
Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

The company said that the palm-scanning tech will be offered as just one of many payment options at participating Whole Foods Stores and that it won’t impact store employees’ job responsibilities.

“At Whole Foods Market, we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the shopping experience for our customers,” said Arun Rajan, senior vice president of technology and chief technology officer at Whole Foods Market.

Palm images used by Amazon One are encrypted and stored in a “highly secure” cloud, and customers can request to have their palm data deleted.

The company claims palm-scanning tech is more private than other biometric alternatives, such as facial recognition.

Amazon One builds on the “Just Walk Out” technology that Amazon uses in its Go stores, which detects the items shoppers pick up and charges them once they leave — without the need for a checkout line

Amazon is also planning to expand the cashier-less technology to Whole Foods, as reported by The Post.

Meanwhile, the tech could be good for its bottom line. The online behemoth aims to sell its palm-scanning tech to other companies like retailers, stadiums and office buildings.

Amazon One scanner
The scanner uses high-tech imaging and algorithms to create and detect a unique palm signature which is then encrypted and stored in a secured cloud.
Amazon

Last September, it said it was in “active discussions with several potential customers.” But it is unclear if it has progressed on any of those fronts.

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Apple’s new iPad Pros and TV remote don’t have U1 locators to help find them in your couch

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Apple has been quietly sticking special locator beacon chips into some of its new iPhones that’ll let you unlock your car and find lost items through walls — the latter thanks to the $29 AirTags announced today — but sadly, you won’t find that chip in the new M1-based iPad Pros or the long-awaited new Siri remote for the Apple TV.

Apple confirmed to us that the U1 locator chip, which uses pulses of ultra-wideband (UWB) radio to broadcast its precise location, won’t appear in the Siri remote. We’re waiting on final bulletproof confirmation about the iPad Pros, but it also doesn’t appear in their product page, spec sheet, or press release. Last year’s iP ad Pros didn’t include a U1 chip, either.

Is Apple expecting us to stick AirTags to our iPads and TV remotes to escape the jaws of the ever-ravenous couch? Unlikely, but the company has been pretty choosey about which devices get the chip so far. You can find it in the iPhone 11 and newer (but not the iPhone SE) and the Apple Watch Series 6 (but not the Apple Watch SE), but we’re pretty sure it hasn’t made its way to any iPads or MacBooks that have been announced since the chip’s introduction in September 2019.

Theoretically, Apple could build an ecosystem where any Apple device can easily find any other Apple device (not to mention UWB devices from Samsung, which is also deeply invested in the tech and has its own AirTag-like device as well). But for now, you’ll primarily just be using your phone to find AirTags, not other gadgets, except perhaps your future car.

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Your iPhone has a completely hidden app. Here’s how to find and use it

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Apple’s iPhone is full of hidden features and tricks we’re constantly discovering. For instance, did you know the Notes app has a hidden document scanner? Yeah, pretty cool. The latest hidden feature that’s been popping up on Twitter and blogs is another type of scanner, dedicated to QR codes, and it’s better than the one built into the camera app.

Indeed, you would already be able to filter QR codes utilizing the easy route in Control Center, or simply open the camera application and it will check a QR code. Also, you’re correct. Both of those strategies turn out great. However, the committed Code Scanner application accepts the position above and beyond by introducing a greater amount of the data I need to see about an examined code.

For instance, the camera application utilizes a little notice at the highest point of the screen to open a connection or show you data, though the devoted Code Scanner application makes it exceptionally clear what’s inside the QR code you just checked. Yet, here’s the rub: The Code Scanner application isn’t found on your home screen, nor is it found in iOS 14’s new App Library.

As should be obvious, the best way to discover the Code Scanner application is to utilize the iPhone’s Spotlight search include. Go to your iPhone’s home screen and swipe down in the center of the screen. An inquiry bar will show up at the highest point of your screen, alongside application and alternate route ideas underneath. Type either code or scanner. As you type, you’ll see the Code Scanner application symbol appear as an application idea. Tap to open it.

The flashlight icon at the bottom of the screen acts as a flash to illuminate a code if your phone is struggling to read it.

If you don’t have the QR scanner shortcut added to Control Center yet, here’s a post showing you how to customize Control Center to your liking. For more hidden features, check out our list for iOS 14. We also cover more general, but useful features in iOS 14.

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