Archive for United Kingdom

coronavirus also hits reproduction rights!

Posted in Kids with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2020 by xi'an

“The [UK] Department of Health says reported changes to the abortion law, that would allow women to take both pills at home during the coronavirus outbreak, are not going ahead.” Independent, 23 March

“Texas and Ohio have included abortions among the nonessential surgeries and medical procedures that they are requiring to be delayed, saying they are trying to preserve precious protective equipment for health care workers and to make space for a potential flood of coronavirus patients.” The New York Times, 23 March

“Le ministre de la Santé, Olivier Véran, et la secrétaire d’Etat chargée de l’Égalité femmes-hommes, Marlène Schiappa, ont tenté lundi de rassurer : les IVG « sont considérées comme des interventions urgentes », et leur « continuité doit être assurée ». Le gouvernement veillera à ce que « le droit des femmes à disposer de leur corps ne soit pas remis en cause », ont-ils assuré.” Le Parisien, 23 March

“Lawmakers voted on Wednesday to liberalize New Zealand’s abortion law and allow unrestricted access during the first half of pregnancy, ending the country’s status as one of the few wealthy nations to limit the grounds for abortion during that period.” The New York Times, 18 March

freedom for women jailed in Iran

Posted in Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2019 by xi'an

Three women are currently on hunger strike in Iranian jails to protest against their arbitrary detention under espionage charges and the dire conditions of these detentions. Two of them, Fariba Adelkhah and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, are dual nationals with Iranian nationality, whose second nationality is not recognised by Iranian authorities and makes their release from jail the more unlikely. On the French side, Fariba Adelkhah, anthropologist, along with Roland Marchal, sociologist, is a researcher at Sciences Po Paris. They were arrested in June 2019. On the British side, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (jailed in April 2016) is working with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Canadian news agency Thomson Reuters‘ charitable arm and Kylie Moore-Gilbert (jailed since October 2018) is a  Middle East Lecturer at the University of Melbourne‘s Asia Institute. Petitions have been launched to support them, but I wonder at the possibility to move the Iranian cynical stance other than through the respective governments of these women. (Obviously, there are many many other women and men jailed in Iran for political or other discriminatory reasons who should equally be freed.)


punch [him] back, Britain!

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on December 12, 2019 by xi'an

we have never been unable to develop a reliable predictive model

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2019 by xi'an

An alarming entry in The Guardian about the huge proportion of councils in the UK using machine-learning software to allocate benefits, detect child abuse or claim fraud. And relying blindly on the outcome of such software, despite their well-documented lack of reliability, uncertainty assessments, and warnings. Blindly in the sense that the impact of their (implemented) decision was not even reviewed, even though a portion of the councils does not consider renewing the contracts. With the appalling statement of the CEO of one software company reported in the title. Blaming further the lack of accessibility [for their company] of the data used by the councils for the impossibility [for the company] of providing risk factors and identifying bias, in an unbelievable newspeak inversion… As pointed out by David Spiegelhalter in the article, the openness should go the other way, namely that the algorithms behind the suggestions (read decisions) should be available to understand why these decisions were made. (A whole series of Guardian articles relate to this as well, under the heading “Automating poverty”.)


Posted in pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on October 27, 2019 by xi'an

revisiting the balance heuristic

Posted in Statistics with tags , , , , , , , on October 24, 2019 by xi'an

Last August, Felipe Medina-Aguayo (a former student at Warwick) and Richard Everitt (who has now joined Warwick) arXived a paper on multiple importance sampling (for normalising constants) that goes “exploring some improvements and variations of the balance heuristic via a novel extended-space representation of the estimator, leading to straightforward annealing schemes for variance reduction purposes”, with the interesting side remark that Rao-Blackwellisation may prove sub-optimal when there are many terms in the proposal family, in the sense that not every term in the mixture gets sampled. As already noticed by Victor Elvira and co-authors, getting rid of the components that are not used being an improvement without inducing a bias. The paper also notices that the loss due to using sample sizes rather than expected sample sizes is of second order, compared with the variance of the compared estimators. It further relates to a completion or auxiliary perspective that reminds me of the approaches we adopted in the population Monte Carlo papers and in the vanilla Rao-Blackwellisation paper. But it somewhat diverges from this literature when entering a simulated annealing perspective, in that the importance distributions it considers are freely chosen as powers of a generic target. It is quite surprising that, despite the normalising weights being unknown, a simulated annealing approach produces an unbiased estimator of the initial normalising constant. While another surprise therein is that the extended target associated to their balance heuristic does not admit the right density as marginal but preserves the same normalising constant… (This paper will be presented at BayesComp 2020.)

unimaginable scale culling

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2019 by xi'an

Despite the evidence brought by ABC on the inefficiency of culling in massive proportions the British Isles badger population against bovine tuberculosis, the [sorry excuse for a] United Kingdom government has permitted a massive expansion of badger culling, with up to 64,000 animals likely to be killed this autumn… Since the cows are the primary vectors of the disease, what about starting with these captive animals?!