Statistical methods have been used to settle the question of wartime atrocities committed by Indonesian forces against the people of East Timor. The island of East Timor (now Timor-Leste) was occupied by Indonesian troops from 1975 to 1999.
A truth and reconciliation commission was convened to explore the scope of the mass murder on the island, and Patrick Ball, a "forensic statistician" was called in to extrapolate the full scope of the wartime deaths that can be laid at the feet of the Indonesian occupiers.
Patrick is a friend of mine, and his work on this is truly ground-breaking -- he's testified at Milosovic's trial, for example. He's an amazing example of how math can make a different in the real world.
To generate the East Timor report, HRDAG researchers spent three years in the country -- now called Timor-Leste -- collecting and analyzing mountains of raw data. The group marshaled 8,000 testimonies and developed innovative sources of information, including the first human rights retrospective mortality survey to determine how many people died and why.
They surveyed 319,000 graves and used hundreds of Python, Java and bash shell scripts to build a huge database of mortality data that contained an 80,000-file directory tree.
While prior information about East Timor focused on anecdotal accounts, the HRGAD researchers used comparative analysis of the datasets to uncover patterns of deaths and build objective evidence of abuses. The team also developed an array of descriptive statistical analysis profiling the scale, pattern and structure of torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and sexual violations. In order to estimate what was missing from the data, the HRDAG developed software to link multiple reports of the same death in a technique called record linkage. They then used multiple systems estimation to calculate the deaths no one remembered.
"The Indonesian military has persistently argued that excess mortality in Timor due to its occupation of Timor was zero," said Romesh Silva, a HRDAG field statistician who led the design and implementation of the project's data collection. "This claim can now be tested empirically and transparently with the tools of science instead of merely being debated with the tools of political rhetoric."
Where are our petabyte drives? Brian Hayes takes us through the reasons storage is “stuck” in the low terabytes. The tl;dr is that we got such exceptional capacity growth in the late 90s and early 00s we don’t need much more right now, so the focus since then has been on SSDs, networking, interfaces, etc, […]
Amélie Lamont, a former staffer at website-hosting startup Squarespace, writes that she often found herself disregarded and disrespected by her colleagues. One comment in particular, though, set her reeling — and came to exemplify her experiences there.
In this episode of the Flash Forward podcast we travel to a future where humans have decided to eradicate the most dangerous animal on the planet: mosquitos. How would we do it? Is it even possible? And what are the consequences? Flash Forward: RSS | iTunes | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Patreon We […]
Jared Sinclair developed the RSS reader app Unread, which made $10,000 in its first 24 hours on the iOS market. And we’ve all heard the story of Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen, whose creation was reportedly earning $50,000 a day at the height of its 2013 explosion. While those are rare examples, they’re also testament to the […]
If you or your company’s IT system are besieged by black hat cyber attacks, an ethical hacker might be all that stands between crippling damage and a company’s long-term prosperity. It’s no wonder that the market for IT security specialists is exploding. Certification is the key – so learn the tenets of ethical hacking and get […]
Your laptop and mobile devices are top of the line…so why are you trotting out that raggedy decades-old suitcase when you go somewhere? Time to up your travel game with a complete 5-piece Herschel Travel Luggage bundle…and we’ll even give it to you for free!Of course, you’ve got to win the Ultimate Herschel Travel Bundle […]