Most dangerous nations for women in 2018: US in top 10

A recent Reuters news article, Factbox: Which are the world’s 10 most dangerous countries for women? caught my attention. The results were the subject of a post at Feminist Philosophers blog, where I occasionally visit and even understand a bit, without being a philosopher nor much of a feminist.  I reacted with incredulity to the results.

United States is the 3rd most dangerous country for sexual violence

Sexual violence is defined by the survey:

“This includes rape as a weapon of war; domestic rape; rape by a stranger; the lack of access to justice in rape cases; sexual harassment and coercion into sex as a form of corruption.”

How often was rape used as a weapon of war in the United States in 2018?!

Yes, this Factbox article—based on investigative journalism funded, produced and published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation— reports that women in the US are more at risk of sexual violence than in Syria! The US is considered more dangerous for women than nations where female genital mutilation is common, and untreated obstetrical fistulas ruin lives.

Top 10
01 India
02 Democratic Republic of the Congo
03 USA
03 Syria
05 Congo
06 South Africa
07 Afghanistan
07 Pakistan
09 Mexico
10 Nigeria
10 Egypt
10 Somalia

India versus #MeToo

On the Foundation’s website, I did find a point of light, but bracketed by tragedy.  Near Mumbai, two adult men raped a 7 year-old girl as she waited for her parents to pick her up from school. The attack was so brutal that she required hospitalization, but will survive. The rapists were apprehended and are in custody.

The point of light is India’s Prime Minister Modi. He recently introduced the death penalty for acts of rape of girls under 12 years of age, in response to widespread public demand for such measures. Female children are 40% of the victims of all 40,000 rapes reported in India annually.

In contrast, #MeToo mostly involved women in America’s highest echelons of status and privilege.

two women and man laughing

Gwyneth Paltrow and Harvey Weinstein: Hillary Clinton political supporters

woman hugs smiling man

Gwyneth wins Academy Award (1999)

To suggest that #MeToo revealed conditions in the US that are comparable to the sexual violence of 16,000 child rapes in India is a harmful misrepresentation. Even comparison to the genuinely egregious #MeToo disclosures, e.g. of Congressmen who coerced sexual favors from their fully adult female staff members, is highly inappropriate. Yet the Thomson Reuters survey did not hesitate to do so:

“The survey came after the #MeToo campaign went viral last year, with thousands of women using the social media movement to share stories of sexual harassment or abuse.”

Non-sexual violence worse in US than Somalia

The survey defined non-sexual violence as “conflict-related violence; domestic, physical and mental abuse”.  These are the results.

Top 10
01 Afghanistan
02 Syria
03 India
04 Yemen
05 Pakistan
06 USA
07 Saudi Arabia
08 Democratic Republic of the Congo
09 Mexico
09 Somalia

The United States is deemed more dangerous for women than Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia.

I am surprised to see Mexico mentioned. Maybe that is due to Mexico’s porous northern border, as violence against women flows southward from the United States?

Immigration sanity check

According to the poll, Guatemala and Honduras are safer, less physically dangerous places for women than the United States. If that is true, then most of the requests for asylum in the US made by women and children fleeing these two countries have no justifiable basis!

If levels of domestic abuse, gang violence, and sexual victimization of women and children in the United States is greater than in El Salvador, then likelihood of harm would be increased—rather than alleviated— by seeking asylum in the US.

The source of these findings about comparative geographic danger to women is a highly respected news organization. Regardless, the results are flawed. Faulty polling methods and shoddy statistical analysis of responses are implausible culprits: A subject matter panel of over 500 experts in women’s rights provided the data from which the final results were derived. Although I wonder… who are these experts?

Blame falls on Reuters. Editorial oversight would have been in place throughout the project. The featured results would not have been released prior to vetting and final approval. This was not a minor mistake, but rather, a breach of Reuters published standards of accuracy and freedom from bias in journalism.

Why politically motivated surveys are bad

An unrelenting narrative that the United States is SO terrible has been running in the background for years. I have heard it since we invaded Iraq. During the Obama years, I think it was broadly referred to as the end of, or perhaps myth of American exceptionalism. Stridency and outrage is particularly acute now, under the Trump administration. I believe that warped perceptions, combined with agenda-driven media can result in grossly inaccurate investigative reports such as this.

Protecting women’s rights is important! Appeal to emotion (e.g. Trump Derangement Syndrome) should be resisted. Failure to recognize situational bias hurts the effectiveness of advocacy efforts. Regaining credibility is often elusive.

Methodology

I was disappointed at the lack of methodological detail provided, e.g. criteria to normalize results across disparate country populations and rates of violence. Who were the 548 experts? I will check for further details. Perhaps I will follow-up with a statistical survey design post if I can find more information.

Feminist Philosophers

A Thomson Reuters Foundation poll ranked the 10 most dangerous countries for women, based on the responses of experts. They considered gendered issues such as violence, healthcare, and economic access.

Here is a link to the reporting: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-women-dangerous-poll-factbox/factbox-which-are-the-worlds-10-most-dangerous-countries-for-women-idUSKBN1JM01Z

And here is a ranked list of the countries:

  1. India
  2. Afghanistan
  3. Syria
  4. Somalia
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. Pakistan
  7. Democratic Republic of Congo
  8. Yemen
  9. Nigeria
  10. United States

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Published in: on July 2, 2018 at 7:40 am  Comments (4)  
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Growth of the early Internet, node by node

Network diagrams are a popular way of visualizing social and corporate relationships. Network theory has been used to model telecommunications performance and especially, the Internet. Communications networks increase in value as the number of connections increases. Metcalfe’s Law attempts to quantify the increased value.

Optimizing Metcalfe’s Law

For a network with n members, Metcalfe’s Law posits that the total value of that network is proportional to n * (n-1). Metcalfe’s Law as applied to the Internet, and even to the telephone network, is only valid if all connections have equal value. This is incorrect. Some internet connections are hardly used and contribute limited value. Of course, there are reasons to connect everyone that are not based on monetary value! Rural electrification is an example.

Andrew Odlyzko’s article about Metcalfe’s Law (IEEE Spectrum, 2006) was written with a keen awareness of the 2000 dotcom bubble. Odlyzko demonstrated how Metcalfe’s Law’s applicability could be limited by the equal value assumption, among others. I read it, and wondered: What is the Internet’s optimal number of nodes and connections? When did the value of a larger Internet network start diminishing?

At some point, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) stopped charging users for access, as the business of delivering content became more valuable than providing greater network connectivity. AOL charged for service until 2002 or so.

I thought it would be helpful to begin with a timeline of Internet growth, by number of sites connected and corresponding events, as a starting point for determining incremental value. I searched for a streamlined history, but the best that I could find is provided by The Computer History Museum, and it isn’t quite linear. It also has a lot of technical detail that isn’t relevant for verifying Metcalfe’s Law. I decided to construct a timeline of dates and nodes, from which connectivity can be determined. I am writing this partly for myself, for reference purposes. (I don’t know how to value connectivity, not yet.)

In the beginning

In the beginning, the Internet had only two nodes. It was called the ARPANET. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2016 at 6:41 am  Comments (3)  
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Oil prices and OPEC influence

Light, sweet crude is the most desirable grade of crude oil because it requires minimal refining while producing the most gasoline. This chart is useful when considering geopolitical risk and commodities prices, as it illustrates where the “best” oil is.

Comparison of oil types by country

Oil types by country (click image to view full-sized)

The chart was produced by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2012. Perhaps that is why West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude is not listed, as the U.S. was not an oil exporting nation until recently, under President Obama’s administration, although we are not a net oil exporter.

OPEC

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has had varying levels of power since its founding in 1960 and heyday in the 1970s. Saudi Arabia has always been the controlling producer in the cartel. OPEC’s objective is to control oil price by either freezing production or cutting production.

Iran is an OPEC member. (more…)

Published in: on March 4, 2016 at 2:31 am  Comments (2)  
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Cornucopia of mathematics

This image was originally developed as the focal point of the Math Awareness Month poster of April 2000. The theme was “Math Spans All Dimensions”. It was too lovely to be retired, and appeared again at TFBCON2003.

Dimension Cornucopia via TFBCON2003

According to the artist, Brown University professor Thomas Banchoff, it is suffused with joy, just as I had hoped!

It begins with mere points, then a curve that flares into a spiral and eventually a colorful 3-d cornucopia of mathematical plenty:

…suggesting the possibility of further dimensions yet to come.

Professor Banchoff’s art work has even graced some book covers, including this one, written by my favorite statistician.

Published in: on February 27, 2015 at 12:33 am  Comments (2)  
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The EPA is not the Federal Reserve of oil markets

Energy market pricing behavior seems contrary to the relationship between supply and demand. The oddly behaving RIN market is an intermediate factor that influences gasoline prices for automobiles. RIN (Renewable Identification Numbers) should be decreasing. Instead, they are too high.

Bio-fuel pricing anomaly

RIN establish compliance with standards for non-fossil fuel usage, specifically, for corn-based ethanol as a blend in gasoline. In 2007, legislation was passed to encourage greater use of ethanol. The percentage requirement of ethanol is set by the EPA. It increases annually, and is calculated at an aggregate level, measured volumetrically, over all U.S. domestic consumption.

My favorite energy blog, Platt’s Oil Barrel, featured a guest post* by former Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Energy and Climate Change of the National Security Council Jason Bordoff, explaining anomalous RIN price behavior, and what the EPA is doing about it. He noted two reasons for the seemingly anomalous pricing.

Hitting the blend wall

Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) were revised in 2007, based on the assumption that gasoline usage would increase over time. In fact, it has not done so, not consistently. Instead, it decreased during 2011-2013, yet the schedule of increasing amounts of ethanol has remained, as legislated. As a result, according to Bordoff, we are now hitting the “blend wall”, when blenders physically cannot put enough ethanol into the gas supply to comply with RFS law.

Bordoff identified a second reason:

broad-based skepticism in the market that EPA will use its waiver authority to avoid the blend wall—even though EPA just went to unusual lengths to signal precisely that it will.

Federal Reserve v. EPA: Powers and purpose

The bio-fuel situation bears an odd resemblance to the rational expectations based logic of monetary policy. It is difficult for the Federal Reserve to effectively signal to markets, e.g. the anticipated (and appropriate!) end of quantitative easing. The Federal Reserve System has taken measures to increase transparency. Fed Governors Bernanke and Yellen hold scheduled press conferences. Bernanke was the first Federal Reserve governor to do so. The Fed was audited by the GAO in 2012. Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) meeting notes are published and posted online.

The Fed also has the necessary tools to carry out monetary policy e.g. quantitative easing known as QE.

Despite all of the above, the “job creators” aren’t investing, and the Fed is now contemplating QE4. (more…)

Published in: on October 13, 2014 at 7:54 am  Comments (8)  
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Statistics comes to Swarthmore College

Some years ago, I studied mathematics and statistics. At that time, there was only one statistician among the mathematics department members, maybe the entire Swarthmore College faculty, Gudmund R. Iversen. He was my academic adviser. Professor Iversen was grey, tweedy and Norwegian. He always addressed me as Miss Kesselman, which helped alleviate my shyness at the time.

Professor Iversen got his PhD in statistics from Harvard University in 1969. I noticed only one other familiar name on that very short list of all Harvard Statistics PhD alumni: Columbia University political science and statistics professor Andrew Gelman PhD in 1990.

Lunch with Tufte

Professor Iversen had a group of colleagues, all statisticians from other academic institutions. They would visit Swarthmore to give lunchtime talks, or more typically, late Friday afternoon presentations to mathematical statistics students.

Diagram of Napoleon's Russian campaign by Minard

Napoleon’s March to Moscow. Charles J. Minard, 1869

I recall one particular guest statistician. Edward Tufte was on the faculty of Princeton University, and had recently written his first book, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information. The venue was a small private room in Sharples dining hall. I was one of maybe 20 attending. (more…)

Just a little bit more Bitcoin trouble

There has been so much tumult in bitcoin and cryptocurrency over the past few days! Interest and concern extends beyond online communities. Motives vary.

screenshot of bitcoin mining in Windows

Bitcoin miner GUI running Windows 7

Anonymous and decentralized

There are two conceptual pillars of trust that uphold bitcoin as being superior to fiat currency. (The fiat currency of reference is primarily the US dollar. Why? Because the US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, for now.)

The first is anonymity. US dollars held as cash are bearer instruments. Ownership and use is anonymous, but only until one wants to use them for commercial transactions of significant size as defined by anti-money laundering rules. Bitcoin does have some anonymity shortcomings, as transactions on the blockchain are actually pseudonymous, but there may be tractable remedies. Further details have been widely covered elsewhere.

The second conceptual pillar of bitcoin is decentralization. The US dollar is highly centralized. As ideological (but not market) confidence in the dollar diminishes, the appeal of an apolitical, alternative currency increases, especially one that is a fungible store of value.

All markets are game theoretic. Bitcoin is too.  I really wish we could ask Professor John Nash what he thinks of bitcoin! Nash wrote a pleasant, accessible article that described bitcoin-like currency, titled “Ideal Money” a few years ago.

I mention game theory because monopolists and cartels can assert control over bitcoin production. This is playing out right now.

Centralization of bitcoin

Currently, Bitcoin’s most acute concern is loss of decentralization. This is due to the documented, persistent existence of a 51% majority mining pool controlled by gHash.io. gHash is owned and operated by private entity cex.io. gHash’s market dominant behavior was noted in March 2014, however the situation was transient. That has since changed. (more…)

Public school education

Not an autodidact

My only education-related experience has been passive, as a recipient. From kindergarten through 12th grade, I attended public schools in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I loved learning algebra, calculus, chemistry, English literature, French, U.S. history, physics, drafting, home economics, and orchestra. I find it difficult to learn from self-instructional materials. Learning by doing is effective, but requires some guidance.

K-12 education

I perceive betrayal of public interest throughout the U.S.A., due to federal government educational policy. New York City is especially troubled. Exceptionally wealthy individuals with ZERO experience or training in education have decided that they know what is best for America’s children.

The 0.1% of the 0.1%

The Brookings Institute describes them as the 0.1% of 0.1% in assets. Assets held is a robust metric for gauging wealth. It is important to distinguish between wealth and income. Income fluctuates from year to year, even for the wealthy. Causes vary. Some have profound impact, such as significant reversals of fortune. Some are merely transitory, e.g. accounting losses reported in order to minimize impact of tax law changes. These 0.1% of 0.1% individuals choose to actively direct the projects that are beneficiaries of their philanthropy.

Philanthropy, education reform and charter schools

Most education reform activists, or perhaps investors, have no knowledge, nor experience in public school education. Rather, they are exceptionally capable leaders of global software conglomerates. Others have great prowess as hedge fund managers, venture capitalists or real-estate moguls. Several are Wal-Mart family scions. Education reformers who have children educate them at private schools like Philips Andover or Choate, yet they claim that charter school operators provide a superior education, compared to public schools in the U.S.A.

Comparison of charter and public ed chart

Statistically questionable comparison of charter versus public school performance via Wikipedia

(more…)

Published in: on May 17, 2014 at 9:28 am  Comments (9)  
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The problem with randomness

How to generate random numbers from spam

dilbert comic strip 2001-10-25

Random number generators: The devil is in the details

I found SecurityDump’s WPRandom the other day:

Generating random numbers is pretty complicated if you need them for cryptographic algorithms. This software generates them based on spam comments…

It caught my eye as a sort of “spinning spam into RNG gold”, or more likely, PRNG (pseudo-random number generated) gold. Many WordPress blogs, whether self-hosted using WordPress.org or not, effectively use Akismet as a comment spam sieve. (more…)

Published in: on October 5, 2012 at 3:51 am  Comments (8)  
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SHODAN related infosec assortment

wiki defcon 2

The other Defcon

I never attended DEFCON, though it remains a dream I hope to realize one day, soon. It may soon become too logistically awkward due to increasing numbers of attendees.

Shodan is a remarkable search engine. Traditional search engines use “spiders” to crawl websites. Shodan culls data from ports. It was created by John Matherly in 2007. He continues to develop it.

Shodan is helpful for locating web server vulnerabilities. It is available as a free service, for up to 50 searches. Query syntax includes searches by country, host name, operating system and port. Shodan can search for software AND hardware. It has been acknowledged by mainstream media. The most prominent coverage was in early June, via The Washington Post, when Stuxnet received so much press attention.

Me and Shodan

Next is my Scribd infosec collection. It isn’t exclusively Shodan-related. This is why. (more…)

Published in: on June 13, 2012 at 9:24 pm  Comments (2)  
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