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Good morning! Big Tech has a credibility problem and it’s trying to fix it. But what if the most sophisticated tech itself is faulty? Meet the Ethiopian computer scientist who’s exposing deep-seated biases in the artificial intelligence tools used by Google and IBM. As Pride Month kicks off, visit the unlikely West African nation that’s a safe haven for same-sex couples. Read about a secretive ultramarathon that only a few manage to complete. And decode why cows are at the heart of the latest wellness trend.
Charu Sudan Kasturi, Senior Editor, and Liam Jamieson, Reporter
The World Health Organization has decided to rename COVID-19 variants using the Greek alphabet instead of the places they were first discovered to avoid any stigma for countries that detect mutants. The Brazilian variant will be called Gamma and the Indian one Delta. Meanwhile, Peru has revised its COVID-19 death toll, nearly tripling numbers to 180,764, making it the worst hit country on a per capita basis. (Sources: CNN, Reuters)
2. Tennis Test, Soccer Scare
Japanesetennis star Naomi Osaka has withdrawn from the French Open and will step away from the sport temporarily after she was fined and censured by tournament organizers for refusing to speak to the press. Across the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil has agreed to host the Copa America, South America’s premier soccer tournament, after the June event had to be moved from Argentina, which is battling a surge in COVID-19 cases. (Sources: ESPN, BBC)
3. Tax Win for Biden?
While the U.S. debates President Joe Biden’s proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans, the G-7 group of seven industrialized nations is expected to endorse his plan for a global minimum corporate tax later this week. The idea is to avoid a race to zero taxes as countries try to attract foreign investors. (WaPo, Japan Times)
4. Danish Distrust
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have asked Denmark and the U.S. to explain their joint espionage against European allies, reported by major publications across the continent. “This is not acceptable between allies,” said Macron. Is it OK for allies to spy on each other? Vote here or on Twitter. (Source: Deutsche Welle)
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She survived a war in her homeland. Big Tech isn’t going to scare her. The Ethiopia-born scientist was Buolamwini’s partner in crime in exposing problems with IBM’s facial recognition technology in 2018. But she grabbed headlines late last year when Google fired her for pointing out bias in its AI algorithms after officially promoting her within the company to do just that: identify hidden discrimination. But Gebru, who came to the U.S as an asylum seeker at the age of 16, isn’t done. Her nonprofit, Black in AI, is preparing a new generation of people of color in a field that’s at the moment predominantly white.
3. Laura Montoya
It’s tough being a woman of color in AI. It’s even tougher as a queer woman of color. The daughter of a Colombian immigrant, Montoya has found it harder than her peers to get research funding. But that’s not stopped her from dreaming. The yoga-loving, bike-riding techpreneur runs Accel.AI, an Oakland-based startup that trains people from marginalized communities in AI. Read more on OZY.
Today on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’
She is a former Secretary of State, the first female National Security Advisor, a Soviet expert … and she was very nearly a concert pianist. Catch Condoleezza Rice in her most candid interview later today on her relationship with President George W. Bush, the Jan. 6 Capitol storming and more.
Unlikely Gay Havens
It’s Pride Month. At a time when the freedom to choose and follow one’s sexual identity is increasingly under attack in different countries, visit unlikely bastions of LGBTQ rights.
1. Cape Verde
TheWest African archipelago has used its relative isolation to break with the deep-seated homophobia that infects much of the continent. On the islands of Africa’s most LGBTQ-friendly nation, homosexuality is legal — though same-sex marriages aren’t allowed — and gay couples don’t need to worry about stares, let alone violence.
It hosts Asia’s largest gay festival, has never criminalized homosexuality and, since 2002, has anti-discrimination laws. Since 2019, it has also allowed gay marriages and has moved to legally accept transgenders as a third gender.
Twenty-one ultramarathoners died in northern China after a fierce storm hit the brutal Huanghe Shilin Mountain Marathon last week. Here are some more of the world’s most notorious ultras.
Dubbed “the world’s toughest footrace,” this California ultramarathon is a 135-mile trek that commences 280 feet below sea level in Death Valley and crosses three valleys and mountain ranges while ascending to the base of Mt. Whitney, which stands at over 8,000 feet. Runners go from low to high as their energy goes from high to low. All in Death Valley’s hellish July heat, with temps that soar above 120°F and fiery asphalt roads that can melt competitors’ shoes.
2. Marathon des Sables
If you’re into the idea of Badwater’s scorching temps, check out Morocco’s Marathon des Sables, a seven-day race in the Sahara that covers over 150 miles. In addition to enduring the unforgiving sand and a blinding wind and heat comparable to Badwater’s, runners are required to carry all of their food and gear on their back.
3. Barkley Marathons
To tell how challenging a course is just look at past victors. For the secretive invite-only Barkley ultra in Appalachian Tennessee the winner is mostly the course itself. Only 15 runners have ever finished the race in its 35-year history, where racers must run the 20-mile loop of disorienting forests and steep climbs that drops five times in under 60 hours, totaling over 100 miles and an estimated 120,000 feet of ascents and descents. There’s a reason it’s called “The Race That Eats Its Young.”
New Wellness Tricks
Looking for interesting new avenues for self-care? We’ve got you covered — as long as you stick to what actually works.
It’s all about improving your moo-d. From the Netherlands and Switzerland to the U.S.,cow-hugging farms are sprouting up everywhere. The Dutch even have a name for it:koe knuffelen. The idea is to benefit from good old-fashioned human-animal touch, except with cows not cats. Apparently cows’ slow heartbeat and warm body temperature makes them great for hugging. Chew on that.
2. Sleep Robots
Struggle to sleep without your partner next to you? Technology has a fix so bizarre it’s almost creepy: breathing robots that fool your sleepy brain into thinking you’re not alone. Oh, and the robots come with birth certificates. Breathing easy?
Lock yourself into a closed space with temperatures as low as minus 230°F for three minutes. It’s a Japanese practice that took off in the 1970s to treat inflammation and arthritis, conditions for whichcryotherapy is shown to work. That was before Hollywood stars like Jessica Alba and Jennifer Aniston more recently decided to jump on the bandwagon, with unproven claims that it helps keep you young.
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