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World Bank: “In many developing countries, women face significant barriers to their equal participation in society. While some of these barriers are easy to see, a new line of research is uncovering a surprising and less obvious possibility: the very structure of certain languages may shape gender norms in a way that limits women’s opportunities…At a recent Policy Research Talk, World Bank economist Owen Ozier delivered a crash course in linguistics and its relationship to gender norms and economic outcomes for women. According to Ozier, existing research has already hinted at a link between grammar and gender. Some languages—including Spanish and Russian, for example—classify nouns as either masculine or feminine (or sometimes even neuter). Recent experiments in political science have shown that gendered languages that classify nouns this way are associated with more regressive gender attitudes. Economics research has also found that recent immigrants to the United States tend to divide household tasks along more gendered lines if they speak a gendered language.
But Ozier and his colleague Pamela Jakiela of the Center for Global Development wanted more conclusive evidence, and in a new paper they document the results of a journey to identify the grammatical gender structure of 4,334 languages, together accounting for 99 percent of the world’s population. To achieve this linguistic feat, they drew not only on existing sources of information like the World Atlas of Language Structures, but also deep dives into textbooks and academic research as well as the knowledge of World Bank staff in offices as far flung as Fiji…”
The New York Times – Planning on quitting the social platform? A major new study offers a glimpse of what unplugging might do for your life. (Spoiler: It’s not so bad.) – “… A recent study found that the average user would have to be paid $1,000 to $2,000 to be pried away for a year. So what happens if you actually do quit? A new study, the most comprehensive to date, offers a preview. Expect the consequences to be fairly immediate: More in-person time with friends and family. Less political knowledge, but also less partisan fever. A small bump in one’s daily moods and life satisfaction. And, for the average Facebook user, an extra hour a day of downtime. The study, by researchers at Stanford University and New York University, helps clarify the ceaseless debate over Facebook’s influence on the behavior, thinking and politics of its active monthly users, who number some 2.3 billion worldwide. The study was posted recently on the Social Science Research Network, an open access site…”
Motherboard – The material value of e-waste alone is worth $62.5 billion, three times more than the annual output of the world’s silver mines and more than the GDP of most countries – “Electronic waste is a growing threat to the environment. Thanks to the low cost of manufacturing, it’s easier than ever for corporations to pump out millions of laptops, smart phones, internet of things devices, and other electronics. Electronics companies want consumers to keep buying new products, and believe repair and reuse hurts their bottom line. Old CRT monitors and televisions fill warehouses across the country, and companies like Apple and Microsoft pay lip service to the problem, but often pursue business practices that make the problem worse. That’s led to a world where people throw away broken devices instead of repairing them, and those discarded iPhones, televisions, and laptops are poisoning the planet. A new initiative combining the efforts of the United Nations and the World Economic Forum and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development wants to change that…”
Google: “In December 2018, we announced our decision to shut down Google+ for consumers in April 2019 due to low usage and challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations. We want to thank you for being part of Google+ and provide next steps, including how to download your photos and other content.
On April 2nd, your Google+ account and any Google+ pages you created will be shut down and we will begin deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts. Photos and videos from Google+ in your Album Archive and your Google+ pages will also be deleted. You can download and save your content, just make sure to do so before April. Note that photos and videos backed up in Google Photos will not be deleted.
The process of deleting content from consumer Google+ accounts, Google+ Pages, and Album Archive will take a few months, and content may remain through this time. For example, users may still see parts of their Google+ account via activity log and some consumer Google+ content may remain visible to G Suite users until consumer Google+ is deleted. As early as February 4th, you will no longer be able to create new Google+ profiles, pages, communities or events. See the full FAQ for more details and updates leading up to the shutdown…”
Muckrock – Two terabytes on the 2000-2001 Western Energy Crisis were unpublished by FERC, and not even its custodians know why: “Government investigations into California’s electricity shortage, ultimately determined to be caused by intentional market manipulations and capped retail electricity prices by the now infamous Enron Corporation, resulted in terabytes of information being collected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This included several extremely large databases, some of which had nearly 200 million rows of data, including Enron’s bidding and price processes, their trading and risk management systems, emails, audio recordings, and nearly 100,000 additional documents. That information has quietly disappeared, and not even its custodians seem to know why.
According to FERC’s website, some of the information is maintained by Lockheed Martin, which will provide members of the public with copies of the data “for a fee” if they contact Lockheed Martin via a non-existent e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org…The collection of emails, scanned documents, and transcripts, on the other hand, is hosted by another defense contractor – CACI. Unfortunately, that portion of their site is down. According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, it’s been down since at least August 2013…”
Slate: “…Like most encyclopedias, Wikipedia typically functions as a launch pad that provides a general overview of a topic and points to further or original sources. But at least one new study suggests that Wikipedia is superior to other medical sources in at least one key respect: short-term knowledge acquisition. That is, when it comes to finding the right answers quickly, Wikipedia seems to lead the pack. This suggests a new way of thinking about the utility of the crowdsourced encyclopedia. Wikipedia delivers value not only by offering massive amounts of information with its nearly 5.8 million English articles so far, but by providing the means for even professional users to quickly identify and retrieve the most relevant information.
The authors of the paper, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research in October, devised a “three-arm randomized trial” to test the comparative effects of three resources. 116 first- or second-year medical students in Canada took a multiple-choice medical test similar to the Canadian medical licensing examination. During the test, participants took notes on topics to research. After the test, the students were provided one of three pre-selected resources: Wikipedia, a digital textbook, or UpToDate, a subscription service mostly used by doctors. After the test, participants researched topics and took written notes using their assigned resource. Then the students retook the test using their notes.
If you’re like me, then at this point you’re probably feeling bad for the poor medical students. But at least the trial yielded a meaningful result: Students in the Wikipedia group had significantly better post-test performances on the exam compared to the digital textbook group. The Wikipedia group also outperformed the UpToDate group by a small margin, an impressive result given that UpToDate costs more than $500 annually for a subscription…More than 90 percent of medical students, and 50–70 percent of physicians, use the online encyclopedia as a source for health information…”