Here's a guide to the charities the Boingers support in our own annual giving. Please add the causes and charities you give to in the forums!
Friends of the Merril Collection
I'm on the board of the charity that fundraises for Toronto's Merril Collection, a part of the Toronto Public Library system that is also the world's largest public collection of science fiction, fantasy and related works (they archive my papers). Since its founding by Judith Merril, the Merril Collection has been a hub for creators, fans, and scholars. I wouldn't be a writer today if not for the guidance of its Writer in Residence when I was a kid. —CD
The Tor Project
The Tor anonymity and privacy tools are vital to resistance struggles around the world, a cooperative network that provides a high degree of security from scrutiny for people who have reasons to fear the powers that be. From our early hominid ancestors until about ten years ago, humans didn't leave behind an exhaust-trail of personally identifying information as they navigated the world -- Tor restores that balance. —CD
Because we deserve health care, including reproductive, gender, and sexual health care. Because access to birth control and safe abortion is a human right. Because Trump's regime wants to destroy all of this. —XJ
Software Freedom Conservancy
Software Freedom Conservancy does the important, boring, esoteric work of keeping the internet from tearing itself to pieces, playing host organization to free software projects like Git, Selenium and Samba (to name just three). Read the rest
In the last three days of the Sri Lankan civil war, as thousands of people surrendered to government authorities, hundreds of people were put on buses driven by Army officers. Many were never seen again.
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Today is the Fifth Annual Aaron Swartz Day and International Hackathon Weekend, and for the first time, the speakers will be webcast, starting at 1PM Pacific:
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A guide to the charities we support in our own annual giving.
At the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, we’ve been holding heads of state accountable for human rights violations for a quarter century. And now we're prepared to do the same in the United States.
Our work is cut out for us: we’re showing how data is misused to reinforce racial discrimination in policing, in criminal justice determinations-—work that is more relevant and necessary than ever.
We’ve provided critical evidence in the prosecution of dictators like Slobodan Milosevic for ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, Efraín Ríos Montt for genocide in Guatemala, Hissène Habré for crimes against humanity in Chad. And we are providing the most accurate counts of killings in Colombia and Syria, and homicides by police in the US. This evidence will be ready when these societies come to terms with their past.
Facts do matter. And leaders need to be held to account. We need you to help us get this message out and support our work. Will you consider us in your end-of-year giving? Read the rest
Researchers from the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (previously) reimplemented the algorithm Predpol predictive policing system that police departments around America have spent a fortune on in order to find out where to set their patrols, and fed it Oakland's 2010 arrest data, then asked it to predict where the crime would be in 2011. Read the rest
I've been writing about
the work of Cathy "Mathbabe
" O'Neil for years: she's a radical data-scientist with a Harvard PhD in mathematics, who coined the term "Weapons of Math Destruction" to describe the ways that sloppy statistical modeling is punishing millions of people every day, and in more and more cases, destroying lives. Today, O'Neil brings her argument to print, with a fantastic, plainspoken, call to arms called (what else?) Weapons of Math Destruction
Statistician Patrick Ball runs an NGO called the Human Rights Data Analysis Group, which uses extremely rigorous, well-documented statistical techniques to provide evidence of war crimes and genocides; HRDAG's work has been used in the official investigations of atrocities in Kosovo, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Syria and elsewhere. Read the rest
The Ford Foundation's Michael Brennan discusses the many studies showing how algorithms can magnify bias -- like the prevalence of police background check ads shown against searches for black names. Read the rest
Patrick Ball and the Human Rights Data Analysis Group applied the same statistical rigor that he uses in estimating the scale of atrocities and genocides for Truth and Reconciliation panels in countries like Syria and Guatemala to the problem of estimating killing by US cops, and came up with horrific conclusions. Read the rest
You are Not So Smart is hosted by David McRaney, a journalist and self-described psychology nerd. In each episode, David explores cognitive biases and delusions, and is often joined by a guest expert.
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The problem with sorting out failures and successes is that failures are often muted, destroyed, or somehow removed from sight while successes are left behind, weighting your decisions and perceptions, tilting your view of the world. That means to be successful you must learn how to seek out what is missing. You must learn what not to do. Unfortunately, survivorship bias stands between you and the epiphanies you seek. Read the rest
Between 1980 and 2000, a complicated war raged in Peru, pitting the country’s government against at least two political guerilla organizations, and forcing average people to band together into armed self-defense committees. The aftermath was a mess of death and confusion, where nobody knew exactly how many people had been murdered, how many had simply vanished, or who was to blame.
“The numbers had floated around between 20,000 and 30,000 people killed and disappeared,” says Daniel Manrique-Vallier. “But nobody knew what the composition was. Non-governmental organizations were estimating that 90% of the deaths were the responsibility of state agents.”
Manrique-Vallier, a post-doc in the Duke University department of statistical science, was part of a team that researched the deaths for Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Their results were completely different from those early estimates. Published in 2003, the final report presented evidence for nearly 70,000 deaths, 30% of which could be attributed to the Peruvian government.
How do you find 40,000 extra dead bodies? How do you even start to determine which groups killed which people at a time when everybody with a gun seemed to be shooting civilians? The answers lie in statistics, data analysis, and an ongoing effort to use math to cut through the fog of war. Read the rest
In the fog of war, it's not easy to figure out how many people die. Even in the cleanest combat, accurate records are not really a common military priority. Worse, there are often incentives for one side or the other to play up the death counts (or play them down), alter the picture of who is doing the killing and who is dying, and provide evidence that a conflict is getting better (or worse).
All of that creates a mess for outside observers who want to see accurate patterns in the chaos — patterns that can help us understand whether an evenly matched war has turned into a bloodbath, or a genocide. The Human Rights Data Analysis Group is an organization that takes the messy, often conflicting, information about deaths in a warzone and tries to make sense of it. Today, they released an updated version of a January report on documented killings in the Syrian civil war.
They say that there were 92,901 documented deaths between March 2011 and April 2013. That number is extremely high, and tragic. But the number alone is maybe not the most important thing the data is telling us. Read the rest
Benjamin Manuel Geronimo, massacre survivor, and representative of Association for Justice and Reconciliation (AJR), speaking in the genocide trial in Guatemala City on May 9, 2010.
On Wednesday, May 29, I will be among the moderators at a very special event in Washington, DC at the New America Foundation, "Genocide in Our Hemisphere: Justice and Reconciliation in Guatemala Beyond the Conviction of General Ríos Montt." Featured speakers at the event include scholars, massacre survivors, and people who were directly involved in the genocide trial of Ríos Montt, which ended with a guilty verdict on May 10, only to be thrown out ten days later in an unprecedented move by Guatemala's Constitutional Court.
More on the event below. It's from 2-5pm. Attendance is free, but you must sign up online. Read the rest
José Ceto Cabo, an Ixil civil war survivor who runs a small NGO that aids fellow Ixil survivors, leads Miles and Xeni to a clandestine grave from the armed conflict war. Photo by Xeni Jardin.
GUATEMALA CITY -- When the trial of Guatemalan General and former de facto head of state José Efraín Ríos Montt and his then chief of intelligence José Mauricio Rodriguez Sanchez began on March 19, 2013, I was in Washington D.C., working with PBS NewsHour correspondent Miles O’Brien on some new science reporting projects in a shared office. The first time I went to Guatemala was around 1989, during the country’s 36-year internal armed conflict -- I was a teenager, and the experience was one of the most important and formative of my life. My interest in the peace and justice process following the end of the armed conflict and the lives of the Guatemalan people, has only grown since. So I was happy to learn that Guatemalan independent online media groups were in the courtroom with laptops and modems, live-streaming video and audio of tribunal proceedings.
I tuned in as soon as court opened at 8:30 every morning, Guatemala time. And in our shared D.C. office, over a course of weeks, every day Miles and I worked while listening to audio streaming over the internet from that courtroom far away in Guatemala City. The background audio of our workdays included witness testimonies; defense lawyers yelling at the judges; and elderly Ixil Maya women weeping as they re-told the horrors of being raped, and watching their children, brothers, mothers, and grandfathers be killed. Read the rest