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Oct 12
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Systemic bias

Online retail giant Amazon was reportedly forced to abandon a secret project to automate its recruitment process after it was discovered that the artificial intelligence powering its learning algorithm was systematically devaluing the job applications of women. Speaking under condition of anonymity, five sources familiar with the project told Reuters that in 2014 Amazon had assembled a team to build computer programs that would automatically review lists of resumes and output the best candidates from the bunch. Unfortunately, the learning algorithm was trained on the patterns of resumes submitted to the company over the past decade — which, in a heavily male-dominated sector, almost all came from men.

The resulting program learned to penalize resumes that contained the word ‘women’ or the names of at least two-all women’s colleges, and to favor candidates who used words more typically found on male engineers’ resumes. Developers attempted to modify the computer model to make it neutral to those particular terms, but it was impossible to tell if the algorithm wouldn’t find other ways to discriminate against women candidates. Other problems within the model that led to unqualified candidates being repeatedly recommended for jobs forced executives to scrap the recruitment automation effort last year, sources said. Prior to the end of the project, Amazon recruiters allegedly did examine the results generated by the tool when evaluating new hires, but did not make final hiring decisions solely on that basis.

Amazon officials have refused to comment on the problems with the ill-fated AI. According to Reuters, the company did not deny that recruiters had looked at the computer models, but did say the algorithm “was never used by Amazon recruiters to evaluate candidates.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

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‘Hell’

As rescuers continue to comb through the rubble left in the wake of Hurricane Michael, 11 people have officially been declared dead as a result of the catastrophic storm — among them 11-year-old Sarah Radney, who had traveled to Southwestern Georgia just this week to visit her grandparents.

Speaking to The New York Times, the girl’s father, Roy Radney, said he had told his father he should continue evacuating but that he had insisted his modular home had been built to be capable of withstanding 150-mile-per-hour winds. He called regularly as the storm hit on Wednesday, and at first it seemed like everything was going to be fine. But then he got a call from his brother, who told him that Sarah was on the verge of death after being struck in the head by a portable carport that punctured through the house and struck Sarah and her grandmother. The grandmother was left with a punctured lung and a broken rib, while Sarah gasped for air for 45 minutes to an hour before passing away. It took an estimated six hours for medical workers to cut through enough of the fallen trees blocking the roads to get to the home.

“Last night was just hell,” said Radney, a resident of Cairo, Georgia. “I’m an hour and a quarter away, and my daughter’s dying, and I can’t do anything about it. I can’t think of anything that is more related to hell than that.”

“I want people to know, man, when they say, ‘Get out of your house’ — leave your house, listen to them. When they say, ‘No first responder is going to be able to get to you’ — they’re not joking,” Radney continued.

Sarah, he said, had been an honor student and band member with a love of acting. Her dancing and singing, he said, had been the light of his life. His 12-year-old son, he added, was also at the house and witnessed his sister’s death.

“It’s going to be pretty dark without her,” said Radney.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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‘Role model’

British royal Princess Eugenie, who underwent back surgery to treat scoliosis when she was 12 years old, married Jack Brooksbank on Friday while wearing a wedding dress that proudly displayed the long scar running up her spine. scoliosis, a rare condition that disproportionately affects women, causes the spinal cord to bend to one side — potentially causing health problems and creating a hunched appearance if not corrected by surgery. The decision to show her scars at the royal wedding, she told ITV’s This Morning, was a “way to honor the people who looked after me and a way of standing up for young people who also go through this.”

“I think you can change the way beauty is, and you can show people your scars and I think it’s really special to stand up for that,” the princess said.

In attendance at the wedding was popular 15-year-old dance sensation Julia Carlisle, herself a scoliosis sufferer, as well as her spinal surgeon, Jan Lehovsky, and other representatives from the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. The princess, who publicly revealed the X-Rays from her surgery earlier this year, now also serves as patron of the hospital’s charity. Ahead of the wedding, Carlisle said that it would “bring a tear to my eye” of the princess chose to reveal her scar during the wedding. Most people want to “hide their scars,” she said, but it would “mean so much to me” if the princess could show the world that they were something to “be proud” of.

At the wedding, Lehovsky said he was honored to be in attendance and that the princess had proved to be a powerful role model and example to other young girls dealing with scoliosis.

“Most of the patients affected by scoliosis are young girls and she’s a real role model for them,” said Lehovsky. “She’s someone who can inspire them, which is so important for the young ladies coming through the surgery. Princess Eugenie shows them they can lead a normal life despite having this condition. It’s quite comforting for them and really lifts them.”

Watch video of Princess Eugenie at her royal wedding below.

Read the full story at BBC News.

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Fast-track

Nancy Brinker, the founder of breast cancer awareness organization the Susan G. Komen foundation, is reportedly under consideration for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, according to an anonymous source close to the White House who spoke with CNN. Brinker, who stepped down as CEO of the Komen foundation in 2012 amid criticism and a dramatic drop off in donations following the group’s since-reversed decision to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, had previously served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary and as chief of protocol during the George W. Bush administration.

According to CNN’s source, the White House has reached out to Brinker to ask if she would be open to taking on the role of ambassador to the U.N. Brinker, the source said, is considered an appealing candidate because the White House believes she would be easily fast-tracked to confirmation. Another woman once considered a strong contender for the position, Goldman Sachs executive Dina Powell, has reportedly withdrawn her name from consideration. Powell had previously served as Trump’s deputy national security adviser during his first year in office.

The current ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, abruptly announced her resignation on Tuesday, although Trump has said she will remain in her position until “the end of the year.” It is still unclear why Haley chose to step down — according to Bloomberg, her resignation “caught everyone off guard — from Chief of Staff John Kelly to Vice President Pence.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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Double standard

A university student in Canada has spoken out about being dress coded at the school gym over a crop top that a staffer declared was and too “distracting” for men. University of Prince Edward Island student Kylee Graham posted an image of the supposedly offensive outfit to Facebook, detailing how a gym employee stopped her as she entered the gym to tell her that her outfit “was considered inappropriate.”

“The staff preceded [sic] to pull out a binder and show me that women were not allowed to wear sports bras alone, open back shirts, and shirts that were cut low on each side even with sports bras underneath,” wrote Graham. “I told her this isn’t a sports bra as you couldn’t even see my belly button … I must have been starring [sic] at her like she was crazy because she replied with ‘if a man came in here and was wearing a shirt cut so low on the sides you could see his nipples I would tell him the same thing’.”

Eventually, the staffer allowed her to enter the gym and Graham went about her workout. But as she was about to leave, the staffer confronted her once more to tell her that she had discussed her outfit with the rest of the gym staff and that they “decided it was OK.”

Kylee Graham posted a picture of her ‘offensive’ outfit to Facebook. (Facebook)

“At this point I was angry and so I asked ‘what exactly isn’t allowed then and why?’ She said ‘sports bras’ I asked why, she said ‘because it shows your abs and cleavage’ again I asked ‘soo why can’t women wear them?’ To which she said ‘because we are trying to find a happy medium where girls can still workout with men … so that [girls] aren’t too much, and distracting,’” Graham recalled.

Everything about the experience, she said, left her furious. The staffer’s implication that her crop top was so “low cut on the sides” it showed her nipples — and the fact that apparently she and the rest of the gym stuff had spent time discussing the supposed sexuality of her outfit all while she was trying to simply do her workout — was bad enough. But still worse, she said, was that the staffer’s words strongly indicated not only a double standard in the gym’s dress code, but an underlying insinuation that women should feel thankful to be allowed in the gym — apparently a province of men — since their bodies posed such a risk of distracting men.

“So if there wasn’t a dress code then women just wouldn’t be allowed to workout?” she asked. “Abs are not sexual, a back is not sexual, breasts are not sexual unless the woman wants them to be sexual, stop sexualizing women’s bodies doing mundane things and let them live their lives in peace.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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10.12.18

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