Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Dark Side of Life: Avoiding Avoidance

Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: “Based on new data collected from police departments in the 30 largest cities, this report finds that all measures of crime — overall crime, violent crime, and murder — are projected to decline in 2017. Indicators show that 2017 will have the second lowest rates of crime and violent crime since 1990. These findings directly undercut any claim that the nation is experiencing a crime wave. In 2015 and 2016, overall crime rates remained stable, while murder and violent crime rose slightly. Now, in 2017, crime and murder are projected to decline again.”

  • The Brennan Center’s previous report analyzing crime in 2016 is available here, and a report analyzing historical crime trends from 1990 to 2016 is available here.
The Economist: “…Technology is rapidly catching up with the human ability to read faces. In America facial recognition is used by churches to track worshippers’ attendance; in Britain, by retailers to spot past shoplifters. This year Welsh police used it to arrest a suspect outside a football game. In China it verifies the identities of ride-hailing drivers, permits tourists to enter attractions and lets people pay for things with a smile. Apple’s new iPhone is expected to use it to unlock the homescreen (see article). Set against human skills, such applications might seem incremental. Some breakthroughs, such as flight or the internet, obviously transform human abilities; facial recognition seems merely to encode them. Although faces are peculiar to individuals, they are also public, so technology does not, at first sight, intrude on something that is private. And yet the ability to record, store and analyse images of faces cheaply, quickly and on a vast scale promises one day to bring about fundamental changes to notions of privacy, fairness and trust….”

See also Vice: India’s biometric database is a dystopian nightmare

“A challenge to a partisan redistricting plan in Wisconsin goes before the Supreme Court this fall in the case of Gill v. Whitford. In the New York Times article “The New Front in the Gerrymandering Wars: Democracy vs. Math,” Emily Bazelon writes of the significance of the case, “The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision in Gill v. Whitford is likely to shape American politics for years and perhaps decades to come.” Social Explorer Co-Founder and CEO Andrew Beveridge collaborated on an amicus brief for the trial (filed yesterday). Professor Beveridge is a nationally recognized research scholar in the area of redistricting and an expert on drawing district lines. The brief is unique in its focus on the role of big data and modern redistricting tools and analysis. Now more than ever, political leaders in power are able to draw more and more nuanced maps that favor their parties’ candidates. At the same time, experts and courtrooms can also use these advances to better evaluate and challenge redistricting plans. Read the introduction and summary of argument to find out more. (The full brief is available here.)”

Guardian – Study finds plastic fibers found in tap water around the world: “Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted. Microplastic contamination has been found in tap water in countries around the world, leading to calls from scientists for urgent for health. Scores of tap water samples from more than a dozen nations were analysed by scientists for an investigation by Orb Media, who shared the findings with the Guardian. Overall, 83% of the samples were contaminated with plastic fibres. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled at sites including Congress buildings, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters, and Trump Tower in New York. Lebanon and India had the next highest rates. European nations including the UK, Germany and France had the lowest contamination rate, but this was still 72%. The average number of fibres found in each 500ml sample ranged from 4.8 in the US to 1.9 in Europe. The new analyses indicate the ubiquitous extent of microplastic contamination in the global environment. Previous work has been largely focused on plastic pollution in the oceans, which suggests people are eating microplastics via contaminated seafood.”