28 May, 2019

Want to fix big tech? Change what classes are required for a computer science degree

Rather, computer science programs produce people with blind spots; people who excel at writing code, but who aren’t equipped to assess how that code might intersect with human behavior, privacy, safety, vulnerability, equality, and many other factors. As the entrepreneur Anil Dash recently wrote, “Tech is often built with surprising ignorance about its users.” Too few people follow the advice of legal scholar Salome Viljoen to honor all expertise when writing code and building technology.
This blind spot plays a major role in the tech controversies we see every day. It’s one of the reasons we end up with recommendation algorithms that can predict our television preferences to a tee–but also spread anti-vaccine rhetoric at gigabit speeds. And encounter targeted pregnancy advertisements that spoil the surprise, or far worse, continue to appear after a stillbirth. The computer scientists that built Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm, or Google’s search ranking algorithm, didn’t fully anticipate how or why bad actors could hijack their technology–an oversight that a more complete understanding of sociology might have helped mitigate.

Allison on Memorial Day

I never know what to say on Memorial Day.
One thing I've learned over the last few years is that there isn't a "right" thing to say. It doesn't need to be eloquently phrased. It will never be perfect. It will never be enough.
Thank you to everyone actively serving. Thank you to all the veterans who have served. Thank you to those who continue their battle here at home. Thank you to those who never made it home. Thank you to everyone who has sacrificed in ways I cannot begin to imagine. Thank you to the families who have lost someone. You are all in my heart.
To my dear friends who observe this day in memory of your loves, I am honored to know you. I love you.

27 May, 2019


I’ve made a mistake, a lifelong one, correlating advancements in technology with progress. Progress is the opening of doors and the leveling of opportunity, the augmentation of the whole human species and the protection of other species besides. Progress is cheerfully facing the truth, whether flooding coastlines or falling teen pregnancy rates, and thinking of ways to preserve the processes that work and mitigate the risks. Progress is seeing calmly, accepting, and thinking of others.
It’s not that technology doesn’t matter here. It does. We can enable humans to achieve progress. We make tools that humans use. But it might not be our place to lead.

19 May, 2019

In the end, Game of Thrones needed better writers

If Martin’s fault was to spend too long developing the story, Weiss and Benioff charge through it as if they have a train to catch. They have not learned that it is better to cut a subplot in its entirety than leave it in half-cooked. One minute Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth are having an affair. The next they are not. They cannot build. The final series turns on the fight against Cersei, but she is barely seen until the massacre at King’s Landing. They cannot get their story to make sense. In one episode, three dragons cannot defeat Cersei’s forces. In the next, one can.
When and if Martin finishes the novels, Game of Thrones may stand alongside Tolkien and Rowling. But the TV series demonstrates there is no substitute for an individual writer’s creative vision. And for that we should applaud it.

He voted for Trump. Now he and his wife raise their son from opposite sides of the border

Sometimes Jason feels like an outlier in the nation’s polarized immigration debate. After 16 months apart from Cecilia, he has yet to meet another U.S. citizen who is married to an immigrant in the country illegally.
“We’re a very small demographic,” he said. “Usually, illegals are married to illegals.”
But Jason’s story is not uncommon. About 1.2 million immigrants who lack legal status — more than 1 in 10 — are married to a U.S. citizen, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Nearly a third have a child under 18 who is a U.S. citizen.
Still, Jason has struggled to win sympathy across the echo chambers of social media.

18 May, 2019

Deere blames Trump's trade war for lower earnings, plans to scale back production 20% at major plants


The revised forecast is another indicator that farmers, and those in the Midwest in particular, are suffering the brunt of the Trump administration's trade battles. On Friday, the president sought to ease fears over the escalating trade confrontations by lifting tariffs on industrial metals with Mexico and Canada, and he has pledged another aid package for farmers hurt by tariffs.

 Deere said it lowered its forecasts because farmers aren't buying as much equipment. Farmers are worried about plummeting crop prices, international trade disputes and extreme weather events that have delayed planting, including here in Iowa. 

16 May, 2019

Heartbeat: My Involuntary Miscarriage and ‘Voluntary Abortion’ in Ohio

I waited. I overheard the technician as she looked at the screen with the doctor, “this is bad, this is really bad.” He wasn’t my doctor, but he had a soft voice with a southern kick that I liked. He saw me, gestured for me to come to his office, and referred to the ailing life in my belly as a baby. “This isn’t good,” he whispered. “It’s really not. Let me show you.” He was kind but clear. “The organs are not inside the baby’s body. The hands and feet are curled, actually one limb seems to be stunted or missing. The neck isn’t right. This really doesn’t look good.” I looked at the expanded sonogram on his desk. I saw the hands turned in, the area that he referred to as the organs, the dead space where there should be a limb. Minutes ago, I had looked at this same image and smiled. “I don’t understand,” I replied. “What do I do now?” “Why don’t you wait a week,” he offered. “I don’t understand,” I repeated, “can the baby survive? Can these problems be solved? I don’t understand exactly what you are telling me.” “No, I don’t think so,” he said finally, “but there are always miracles.”

13 May, 2019

‘Who’s going to take care of these people?’

The hospital had already transferred out most of its patients and lost half its staff when the CEO called a meeting to take inventory of what was left. Employees crammed into Tina Steele’s office at Fairfax Community Hospital, where the air conditioning was no longer working and the computer software had just been shut off for nonpayment.

12 May, 2019

I’m the Longest-Serving Republican in the Iowa Legislature, and I’m Switching Parties

The legislature is considerably more partisan and regimented than it used to be. I believe the increased partisanship often stands in the way of good legislation, and I’m also deeply concerned by the growing influence that big money exerts on the legislative process.
I also found a very changed Republican caucus. While I have great respect and personal regard for my Republican colleagues, I found myself more and more uncomfortable with the stance of my party on the majority of high-profile issues, such as gutting Iowa’s collective-bargaining law and politicizing our method of selecting judges. I worked for changes to improve legislation that I had concerns about, but also voted against many of these priorities.


It is the story of a generation, overwhelmed and frightened by the 1960’s and 70’s, that wanted to create an isolated bubble in which to raise kids untouched by the chaos and depravity of the American world. It is the story of a generation that partied so hard that, ashamed of its doings, wanted its progeny to not do the things it did. It is a story of how you can so easily throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water — or, put another way, how babies always grow up and have to make their own decisions, no matter how hard their parents try to avoid that day.

08 May, 2019

What Happened After My 13-Year-Old Son Joined the Alt-Right


“I liked them because they were adults and they thought I was an adult. I was one of them,” he said. “I was participating in a conversation. They took me seriously. No one ever took me seriously—not you, not my teachers, no one. If I expressed an opinion, you thought I was just a dumbass kid trying to find my voice. I already had my voice.”

I had no idea he’d felt that way. I couldn’t think of anything to say.

“All I wanted was for people to take me seriously,” he repeated matter-of-factly. “They treated me like a rational human being, and they never laughed at me. I saw the way you and Dad looked at each other and tried not to smile when I said something. I could hear you both in your room at night, laughing at me.”

The Men Who Left Were White

I don't know. I can only guess, because the only knowledge we have is in the missing spaces. Men who are missing from birth certificates, who never laid eyes on their child.
There's no love there, no romance, no babies made with care and devotion. My history tells the story of white men who raped, white men who coerced, white men who had black children, and then white men who disappeared.

07 May, 2019

Georgia mayor under fire for alleged remarks about black job candidate

The mayor of Hoschton, a nearly all-white community 50 miles northeast of Atlanta, allegedly withheld a job candidate from consideration for city administrator because he was black, an AJC investigation has found.

06 May, 2019

The Radically Inclusive Christianity of Rachel Held Evans

Rachel Held Evans, or R.H.E., as she was known, was one of the most formidable figures in contemporary Christianity. Raised in an evangelical household, she spent much of her adult life challenging the harmful role that conservative American culture plays in Christianity. In her four popular books, her talks, and her frequent presence on Twitter, she called for an intersectional approach to Christianity that embraced people of color, L.G.B.T.Q. people, and women in all roles in the church. This wasn’t a question of politics for Held Evans, who’d begun attending an Episcopal church in order to leave the culture wars behind; it was a matter of religious doctrine. She fiercely insisted that God’s love included everyone, and she attempted to offer those who’d been shunned by the church a way to return.

02 May, 2019

Chinese Media Warn WeChat Group Admins: “You Can Be Arrested for What Happens in Your Group Chat”

Chinese media are reminding group admins this week that managing a group chat is “not a joke.” Cautionary headlines read: “Who sets up a group is responsible for it! Many group leaders have already been detained.” 

A woman's reflection on her first child and the morality of abortion


I was raped when I was 17 years old. I had a baby when I was 18 years old. My baby died when I was 19 years old.

Rituals of Honor in Hospital Hallways

The double doors of the surgical intensive care unit opened into a hallway crowded with dozens of hospital employees. A hospital bed emerged, and we all fell silent.
Most beds roll out of the I.C.U. briskly, en route to radiology or an operating room, whirring with the beeps and blinks of monitors and the quick conversation of busy nurses.
This bed was different. It moved at a stately pace, and the team that accompanied it was changed as well. Nurses steered, but there was no chitchat this time. A tall anesthesiologist leaned over the head of the bed to squeeze a bag valve oxygen mask with clocklike regularity.
People in street clothes trailed close behind the bed, unsure of where to look. These were the parents of the young woman in the bed, the one we had all come to honor.

Drug resistance could kill 10M people per year by 2050, experts say

By the numbers: Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, per the UN. Common diseases — like respiratory infections, STDs and urinary tract infections — are increasingly untreatable as the pathogens develop resistance to current medications.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says AMR causes more than 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses in the U.S. annually.
  • "In India, the CDC estimates that more than 58,000 babies under the age of 1 die every year of a drug-resistant pathogen," Mathers points out.
What needs to be done: Jasarevic says the economic and health systems of all nations must be considered, and targets made to increase investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

01 May, 2019

Riley Howell tried to stop UNC Charlotte gunman. He saved lives and died a hero, police say.

Riley Howell was likely the second fatality in the UNC Charlotte shooting, but not before he attempted to stop the gunman — and in the process, saved lives, said Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Kerr Putney.
Putney said he promised Howell's father he would not give many details on the incident, but said multiple times that the 2016 T.C. Roberson High School graduate prevented other deaths.
Howell's decision to fight may have helped police disarm the gunman, identified by law enforcement as ex-UNCC student Trystan Andrew Terrell