Layers and Layers of Editorial Review: USA Today

USA Today said it has deleted 23 articles from its website after an investigation found that the reporter who wrote them used fabricated sources.

The journalist who is said to have used the fabricated sources was identified as Gabriela Miranda, a breaking news reporter who resigned from the Virginia-based newspaper weeks ago, the paper confirmed Thursday.

USA Today removes 23 articles after reporter fabricated sources

Another journalist caught fabricating quotes.

USA Today was contacted by somebody requesting a correction. When USA Today started looking into it they found that Miranda had attributed quotes to people that didn’t work at the organization she said they did. Other people attributed in quotes can’t be located for confirmation. Miranda attributed quotes to the wrong people.

In short, she was just making it up.

NY Post article image

AI is biased because…

AI isn’t really intelligent, it is a system of trained responses. Trained being the key word here.

The gist of AI and deep learning is that you have a set of inputs and a set of outputs. The outputs are generally restricted. Too many outputs and things can get complicated. You take a sample set of inputs and feed it to the AI and it guesses at what to do. If the guess is good, then that decision with its inputs is remembered. There are random numbers thrown in as well as randomly keeping bad decisions. Over time the AI makes better and better decisions.

The problem is that AIs are goal driven. This means that when you set the goals the AI will make decisions that will cause it to reach those goals.

As an example, if your goal is to have an AI evaluate resumes to attempt to determine who is the best fit for the job you are offering you need to provide it with a training set and a set of rewards.

As an example, in the video included, the rewards are based on distance traveled. The programmer changes the goals over time to get different results, but the basic reward is distance traveled. Other rewards could be considered. One such reward could be based on “Smoothness” The less change of input, the better the rewards. This is sort of cheating as we can guess that smooth driving will give better results over all.

I’m don’t do a lot of work with AIs, I’ve got experts that I call upon for that.

In the case of judging resumes, the AI is given rewards based on picking candidates that were successful by some metric. Lets assume that the metric is “number of successfully resolved calls” or “number of positive feedback points on calls”. There are hundreds of different metrics that can be used to define “successful”. And those are used to create the feedback on what is a “good” choice.

The AI is then given the resumes. Those resumes might be pre-processed in some way but just consider it to be the full resume.

They did this. And after they got the AI trained they started feeding it new resumes. The AI consistently picked people that were not BIPOC. Yep, the AI became “racist”.

When this was discovered the AI discarded. Having a racist AI was a sign that the programmers/developers that created the AI were racist themselves. It was racism that is inherit in the system that caused the AI to be racist.

Reality is that the AI isn’t racist. It was just picking the resumes that had the best fit with resumes of “good” hires. This implies that there are characteristics that are associated with race that lead to better outcomes. It also implies that those characteristics are in resumes that are striped of identifying marks.

When I was hiring for a government contract by the time I saw a resume all personal identifying marks were removed. You could not know that the applicant was male or female, white or black or purple. You couldn’t tell how old they were or how young they were.

Out of a set of 100 resumes, 10 would be female. Of those 100 resumes no more than 20 would be forwarded to me for final evaluation. In general, the final 20 would contain more than 10% female candidates.

Those female candidates were rejected time after time. Even though I had no way of knowing they were female. This was bad for the company because we needed female hires to help with the Equal Opportunity Employment numbers. It didn’t seem to matter who was choosing or when the cut was made. There was some characteristic in their resumes that caused them to not make the final cut.

We did hire two females but the question was: Why were so many females rejected?

The AI is even worse as it doesn’t care about race or sex. It cares about the predicted outcome. And for whatever reason, it was showing it’s bias.

In a paper that was blocked from publication by Google and led to Gebru’s termination, she and her co-authors forced the company to reckon with a hard-to-swallow truth: that there is no clear way to build complex AI systems trained on massive datasets in a safe and responsible way, and that they stand to amplify biases that harm marginalized people.

Google’s AI Isn’t Sentient, But It Is Biased and Terrible

Perhaps the film’s greatest feat is linking all of these stories to highlight a systemic problem: it’s not just that the algorithms “don’t work,” it’s that they were built by the same mostly-male, mostly-white cadre of engineers, who took the oppressive models of the past and deployed them at scale. As author and mathematician Cathy O’Neill points out in the film, we can’t understand algorithms—or technology in general—without understanding the asymmetric power structure of those who write code versus those who have code imposed on them.

‘Coded Bias’ Is the Most Important Film About AI You Can Watch Today

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

We can’t judge people by the content of their character. We can’t judge people by their skills. We can’t judge people by their success.

Judging people by merit or ability causes certain groups to be “under represented”.

This is your problem. This is my problem. We just need to stop being judgemental and racist.

Maybe, at some point, those groups that are under represented will take responsibility upon themselves. To succeed in larger and larger numbers.

A win for women

World swimming’s governing body has effectively banned transgender women from competing in women’s events, starting Monday.

FINA members widely adopted a new “gender inclusion policy” on Sunday that only permits swimmers who transitioned before age 12 to compete in women’s events. The organization also proposed an “open competition category.”

World swimming bans transgender athletes from women’s events

If you are barely getting noticed as a male swimmer you can no longer switch to “easy mode” and claim to be a woman.

Somebody got the clue and now women competing under FINA rules won’t have their dreams and awards stolen from them.

Paging Col. Jeff Cooper: Jasmine Hartin edition UPDATED

“I don’t remember ever touching that trigger on the gun so I don’t know what happened, to be honest,” Hartin, whose ex-husband is the son of billionaire Lord Michael Ashcroft, said in the interview, an excerpt of which was published by the Sun.

Jasmine Hartin: I don’t recall ‘touching’ trigger that killed Belize top cop

Ms Hartin is the ex-daughter in law of some important person in England. Wealthy too. She shot an important cop [claiming it happened] while attempting to clear her firearm. Channeling her inner Alex she [says she] didn’t even touch the trigger. It must be a faulty firearm that magically went off at just the right moment.

I’ve had ONE negligent discharge. I was attempting to lower the hammer on a Marlin lever action with a scope and hammer extension. Live round in the chamber but pointed down range. My thumb slipped off the hammer extension and the hammer struck the firing pin causing the rifle to go off.

My normal method of lowering the hammer on a live round is to put my left thumb under the hammer, holding the hammer back with my right thumb, releasing the hammer (pulling/touching the trigger) and lowering the hammer to my left thumb then getting my thumb out of the way and continuing to lower the hammer. With the Merlin with scope I couldn’t comfortably get my left thumb into place and so “bang”.

This is why we have the four rules and why we follow them. If you think there is an exception for following the four rules rethink your position. These rules save lives. Failing to follow them might mean you are on trial for unintentional homicide.

  1. All guns are always loaded. Even if they are not, treat them as if they are.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger till your sights are on the target.
  4. Identify your target, and what is behind it.

We have tweaked those rules. If I’m handed a firearm, it is loaded. If I’ve confirmed that the firearm is indeed unloaded. Then I’m willing to treat the weapon as if it is unloaded, within limits. I still won’t point it at anything I’m not willing to destroy. So I will dry fire a firearm that I’ve confirmed to my satisfaction is indeed unloaded. But it will be pointed in a safe direction when I pull the trigger.

Regardless, know the rules, follow them, be safe.

Updated to show the version of accidental/negligent discharge is her claim. I don’t know anything about this case outside of her reported claims.

Education is hard: Standards-Based Grading

One of my personal battles is dealing with teachers that are bad. I’ve said it from time to time, my wife is a teacher.

My kids went to the same school system my wife taught in. Each year my wife would evaluate which teacher was the right teacher for each of our children. And every year she would say something like “Such and Such is a bad teacher. We don’t want our kids in her class. They won’t learn anything.”

The fact is that every teacher knows who is a good teacher in their school and who is not. Teachers that can get their kids into the class rooms of the good teachers. Yet whenever I talk about evaluating teachers I get so much push back. The statement is almost always “we don’t want to judge a teacher by how their students do. That means that a good teacher can have a bad group of students and then they are judged as bad.”

I’ve been told that teaching is the only profession where there can be no objective measurements so the only way is to reward teachers by time in grade and what credentials they hold. A teacher with a Masters in Underwater Basket Weaving will be paid more than a teacher with a Bachelors in Math minoring in Education.

The best way I’ve found so far is to evaluate students based on their progression over the time in a teachers class. Thus a student that has a 25 point improvement over the course of the year tells you something about that student. If that student had a 30 point improvement last year and a 35 point improvement next year, that might indicate that this teacher isn’t as good as the other two.

The thing is, that you can track this. If there is a teacher that consistently gets 35 point improvement for every student in their class but other teachers are only getting 25 points per student, this is a strong indication that this teacher is the better teacher.

It turns out that this does work. And it works regardless of the quality of the student. This is because we know the student. A student that normally does 15 points but for this one teacher they get 25 points and then back to 15 points, there is a reason for it. And it it turns out the one teacher consistently gets more points per student, reward her. If instead there is that teacher that consistently gets less out of their students, then it is time to let that student go.

Standards-based grading is a way of determining how a student is progressing. It helps grade teachers as well as the student.

Standards-based grading (SBG) is an intentional way for teachers to track their students’ progress and achievements while focusing on helping students learn and reach their highest potential. It is based on students showing signs of mastery or understanding various lessons and skills. In fact, many districts across the country have embraced the idea for decades. Standards-based grading is a way to view student progress based on proficiency levels for identified standards rather than relying on a holistic representation as the sole measure of achievement—or what Marzano and Heflebower called an “omnibus grade.”
Standards-Based Grading: What To Know for the 2021-2022 School Year

Our kids are on standards-based grading. They have to reach “competency” on every assignment before it counts. If they don’t achieve competency then they have to re-learn the lesson and do more assignments, often with instructor help, until they do reach competency.

This means that a student doesn’t move forward in their lessons until such time as they have the foundation for future lessons.

A few years ago the daughter of a family friend was over and they talked about how much trouble she was having in math at school. She was doing all sorts of things, extra credit, extra instructions with the teacher, making sure she participated in classroom discussions. A huge effort on her part. And she was just squeaking by. She wasn’t actually learning anything, but the teacher saw the effort she was putting in and was giving her a passing grade.

In given my friend’s daughter daughter a passing grade the teacher was making next years class that much more difficult.

I like math, I didn’t understand why she was having such issues so I connected her with MobyMath which became MobyMax. This program did the standards-based assessments and discovered why she was having problems with math. She didn’t know how to do division. She could do simple division but she never mastered, gained competency in division which meant no working knowledge of long division that meant…

Her single gap in knowledge from elementary school doomed her in high school math classes.

The board also discussed the practice of standards-based grading in the district. According to the district’s website, standards-based grading is different from traditional grading because instead of averaging a student’s scores across the term, a standards-based grading system “measures a student’s mastery of content standards by assessing their most recent and consistent level of performance.”

Trustee Tracey Pearson said there have been instances where students who have put in consistent effort throughout the term are earning the same “number” as “students who are not putting in as much effort.” This affects student morale and motivation, and causes stress for parents, she said.

Idaho Press: Standards-based grading, challenge books discussed at Nampa School Board meeting

And there it is. Standards-based grades are unacceptable because some kids have to put in more effort. It hurts morale. So let’s go back to the old system, where a student can get a passing grade for showing up and “putting in an effort.”

In education “putting in the effort” isn’t the goal, the goal is, or should be, learning the material.

So many parents today are more concerned about how hard something is rather than what is accomplished. They want their child to get the “participation award” grade.

Poor little Billy is working on homework 4 hours every night after he comes home, there is too much homework and it isn’t fair. Billy needs time to relax and have fun!

If your school system uses standards-based grading, support them. Don’t let grades become participation awards. If you are a parent, try and attend at least a couple of school board meetings every school year. It makes a difference. Don’t be afraid to step up and ask questions or make a statement.

Discipline Is Such a Bad Word – P2

I’ve fought my weight my entire life. Even when I was healthy I thought I was fat. I look back at pictures of me when I knew I was so fat and cringe. I wish I had that body again.

I am currently fat. It affects me in many ways. I’ve been fat for about 10 years now. I know exactly the moment when I lost my war with my weight.

The day my wife moved in. She had an abusive childhood with many fad diets and many that were for all intents, starvation diets. And when her mother would finally give in and give my wife, as a child, food, it was a sign of love.

For my wife, food is love, love is food. If she isn’t putting food in front of you, she isn’t showing love. Last night she was trying to shovel food on to my teenage son’s plate. He said “no”. She had to show her love and the best way for her to show her love is to put more food on his plate.

A lunch for me would be a sandwich. If my wife fixes us lunch it will be two sandwiches and a side and…

She feels love when she bakes. So she bakes and then I have to fight my sugar cravings all day and for the next few days.

She was the teacher that brought home every left over cake and cupcake. Because she couldn’t let it go to waste. So instead it went to my waist. I’d throw cakes and cookies and all sorts of things out and still more would show up.

I lost my war with food because my opponent was my wife’s love for me.

It was a slow grinding war. I was exercising daily. I was the guy that parked at the far end of the parking lot to get a little extra walking in. I always took the stairs.

When I started my own company working from home, my walk to the office went from 1/2 mile each way to 20 steps. And my weight went up. The gym membership failed when the panic started and when my doctor said I had to stop using the treadmill.

But Miguel’s story and looking at the need to be prepared beyond having skills and tools meant I had to find the discipline.

So I have my exercise bike. I get on that damn thing 5 times a week. And that’s hard. My wife says all the wrong things to motivate. She can’t give me my 30 minutes in the morning without having some demand for attention. I have to tell her to be quiet, which hurts her and I don’t want to hurt her.

I bought “salad” plates and use them for my dinner plates. They are much smaller, closer in size to the size of 50’s dinner plates. It means that my helping sizes have gone down. It means that my wife sees a full plate when there is one sandwich and small side, so she can still be giving me love.

I’m down nearly 20 pounds from my peak of 4 months ago. The discipline of eating less and exercising more.

I’ve got enough stamina that I can actually do other physical things that makes it still easier to lose weight. It is a war won battle by battle.

If you are overweight, no call it what it is, if you are fat there are things you can do to start losing weight. Then have the discipline to keep doing it.