Condolences poured in from world leaders, diplomats and prominent South Koreans overseas in the aftermath of the deadly crowd surge in Seoul.
President Joe Biden expressed condolences to the families of victims and best wishes for a quick recovery to the injured.
“We grieve with the people of the Republic of Korea,” he wrote in a statement. “The alliance between our two countries has never been more vibrant or more vital — and the ties between our people are stronger than ever.”
Britain’s new prime minister, Rishi Sunak, wrote on Twitter: “All our thoughts are with those currently responding and all South Koreans at this very distressing time.”
The Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, also weighed in on Twitter. “I am deeply shocked and deeply saddened by the loss of many precious lives, including young people with a promising future,” he wrote.
“The tragic events in Seoul come as a shock to all of us,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany wrote. “Our thoughts are with the numerous victims and their families. This is a sad day for South Korea. Germany stands by their side.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France extended condolences in both French and Korean. “France is with you,” he wrote on Twitter.
Xi Jinping, China’s leader, conveyed condolences to victims and their families to the South Korean president, a Chinese state broadcaster reported. He expressed hopes that the South Korean authorities would make every effort to treat and rehabilitate the Chinese victims of the accident, according to the report.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said on its Telegram channel that President Vladimir V. Putin had sent condolences to South Korea’s president. His message read in part, “Please convey my sincere condolences and words of support to the families and friends of the victims and my wishes for an early recovery to those who were injured,” the ministry said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine wrote on Twitter, “We share your pain and sincerely wish a speedy recovery to all the victims.”
And Pope Francis tweeted asking for prayers for the victims.
The American flag was lowered to half-staff at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul on Sunday, in what Ambassador Philip Goldberg called a gesture of “sorrow and respect.”
“Please know my thoughts, and those of our team at U.S. Embassy Seoul, are with the Korean people and especially the loved ones of those who perished, as well as the many injured in this catastrophic incident,’” he wrote on Twitter.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, wrote that he was deeply saddened. “What meant to be a celebration turned into a tragedy with so many young casualties,” he said in a tweet. “We are with the people of the Republic of Korea at this difficult moment.”
Catherine Raper, the Australian ambassador to South Korea, asked all Australians in Seoul to check in with their family and friends while the embassy was making “urgent enquiries” to find out whether any Australians were among the victims. She extended deepest condolences to all those affected by the accident.
Park Jin, Seoul’s foreign minister, wrote that the government was putting all its efforts toward supporting the bereaved and injured, including foreign citizens. “Your thoughts and support are of great comfort to the Korean people in this moment of heartbreaking grief,” he said on Twitter.
South Koreans Abroad
Son Heung-min, a South Korean soccer star who is a forward with the British club Tottenham Hotspur, expressed sorrow, too.
“All my thoughts are with you all back home in Korea. I am heartbroken to be reading this news,” he wrote on Instagram after winning a match on Saturday. “I want you to all know I am thinking of you and sending all of my strength from here.”
SEOUL — At least 120 people were killed and another 100 injured after they were crushed in a large Halloween crowd in Seoul on Saturday night, the city’s fire department said. The crowd surge happened during one of the most raucous celebrations of the year in the South Korean capital.
Of those who were confirmed dead, 46 were in the hospital, the fire department said, with the rest taken to a nearby gymnasium.
President Yoon Suk Yeol ordered his government to dispatch urgent help and medical assistance to the scene — in the popular Itaewon nightlife district at the city center —after he was informed of “multiple casualties,” his office said in a statement.
Seoul’s mayor, Oh Se-hoon, who was visiting the Netherlands, was returning to South Korea, his office said.
Photos published by domestic media showed citizens, police officers and emergency medical workers performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on people sprawled on the pavement. Live footage on MBC-TV, a local broadcaster, showed firefighters carrying what looked like bodies covered with white sheets on stretchers to ambulances.
Local media said the narrow alleys of Itaewon were jam-packed with as many as 100,000 people for the Halloween festivities on Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, large protests had blocked city traffic in the area.
A witness said the stampede happened when a crowd surged down a narrow alleyway.
“People kept pushing down and more people were crushed down,” the witness wrote on Twitter. “People crushed under the crowd were crying and I thought I would be crushed to death too, breathing through a hole and crying for help.”
In 2018, senior executives at one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, Providence, were frustrated. They were spending hundreds of millions of dollars providing free health care to patients. It was eating into their bottom line.
The executives, led by Providence’s chief financial officer at the time, devised a solution: a program called Rev-Up.
Rev-Up provided Providence’s employees with a detailed playbook for wringing money out of patients — even those who were supposed to receive free care because of their low incomes, a New York Times investigation found.
nonprofits like Providence. They enjoy lucrative tax exemptions; Providence avoids more than $1 billion a year in taxes. In exchange, the Internal Revenue Service requires them to provide services, such as free care for the poor, that benefit the communities in which they operate.
But in recent decades, many of the hospitals have become virtually indistinguishable from for-profit companies, adopting an unrelenting focus on the bottom line and straying from their traditional charitable missions.
focused on investments in rich communities at the expense of poorer ones.
And, as Providence illustrates, some hospital systems have not only reduced their emphasis on providing free care to the poor but also developed elaborate systems to convert needy patients into sources of revenue. The result, in the case of Providence, is that thousands of poor patients were saddled with debts that they never should have owed, The Times found.
provide. That was below the average of 2 percent for nonprofit hospitals nationwide, according to an analysis of hospital financial records by Ge Bai, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Ten states, however, have adopted their own laws that specify which patients, based on their income and family size, qualify for free or discounted care. Among them is Washington, where Providence is based. All hospitals in the state must provide free care for anyone who makes under 300 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that threshold is $83,250 a year.
In February, Bob Ferguson, the state’s attorney general, accused Providence of violating state law, in part by using debt collectors to pursue more than 55,000 patient accounts. The suit alleged that Providence wrongly claimed those patients owed a total of more than $73 million.
Providence, which is fighting the lawsuit, has said it will stop using debt collectors to pursue money from low-income patients who should qualify for free care in Washington.
But The Times found that the problems extend beyond Washington. In interviews, patients in California and Oregon who qualified for free care said they had been charged thousands of dollars and then harassed by collection agents. Many saw their credit scores ruined. Others had to cut back on groceries to pay what Providence claimed they owed. In both states, nonprofit hospitals are required by law to provide low-income patients with free or discounted care.
“I felt a little betrayed,” said Bev Kolpin, 57, who had worked as a sonogram technician at a Providence hospital in Oregon. Then she went on unpaid leave to have surgery to remove a cyst. The hospital billed her $8,000 even though she was eligible for discounted care, she said. “I had worked for them and given them so much, and they didn’t give me anything.” (The hospital forgave her debt only after a lawyer contacted Providence on Ms. Kolpin’s behalf.)
was a single room with four beds. The hospital charged patients $1 a day, not including extras like whiskey.
Patients rarely paid in cash, sometimes offering chickens, ducks and blankets in exchange for care.
At the time, hospitals in the United States were set up to do what Providence did — provide inexpensive care to the poor. Wealthier people usually hired doctors to treat them at home.
wrote to the Senate in 2005.
Some hospital executives have embraced the comparison to for-profit companies. Dr. Rod Hochman, Providence’s chief executive, told an industry publication in 2021 that “‘nonprofit health care’ is a misnomer.”
“It is tax-exempt health care,” he said. “It still makes profits.”
Those profits, he added, support the hospital’s mission. “Every dollar we make is going to go right back into Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Alaska and Montana.”
Since Dr. Hochman took over in 2013, Providence has become a financial powerhouse. Last year, it earned $1.2 billion in profits through investments. (So far this year, Providence has lost money.)
Providence also owes some of its wealth to its nonprofit status. In 2019, the latest year available, Providence received roughly $1.2 billion in federal, state and local tax breaks, according to the Lown Institute, a think tank that studies health care.
a speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.”
Ms. Tizon, the spokeswoman for Providence, said the intent of Rev-Up was “not to target or pressure those in financial distress.” Instead, she said, “it aimed to provide patients with greater pricing transparency.”
“We recognize the tone of the training materials developed by McKinsey was not consistent with our values,” she said, adding that Providence modified the materials “to ensure we are communicating with each patient with compassion and respect.”
But employees who were responsible for collecting money from patients said the aggressive tactics went beyond the scripts provided by McKinsey. In some Providence collection departments, wall-mounted charts shaped like oversize thermometers tracked employees’ progress toward hitting their monthly collection goals, the current and former Providence employees said.
On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay. Ms. Tizon said such costumes were “not the culture we strive for.”
financial assistance policy, his low income qualified him for free care.
In early 2021, Mr. Aguirre said, he received a bill from Providence for $4,394.45. He told Providence that he could not afford to pay.
Providence sent his account to Harris & Harris, a debt collection company. Mr. Aguirre said that Harris & Harris employees had called him repeatedly for weeks and that the ordeal made him wary of going to Providence again.
“I try my best not to go to their emergency room even though my daughters have gotten sick, and I got sick,” Mr. Aguirre said, noting that one of his daughters needed a biopsy and that he had trouble breathing when he had Covid. “I have this big fear in me.”
That is the outcome that hospitals like Providence may be hoping for, said Dean A. Zerbe, who investigated nonprofit hospitals when he worked for the Senate Finance Committee under Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa.
“They just want to make sure that they never come back to that hospital and they tell all their friends never to go back to that hospital,” Mr. Zerbe said.
The Everett Daily Herald, Providence forgave her bill and refunded the payments she had made.
In June, she got another letter from Providence. This one asked her to donate money to the hospital: “No gift is too small to make a meaningful impact.”
Following a Script ‘Like Robots’
In 2019, Vanessa Weller, a single mother who is a manager at a Wendy’s restaurant in Anchorage, went to Providence Alaska Medical Center, the state’s largest hospital.
She was 24 weeks pregnant and experiencing severe abdominal pains. “Let this just be cramps,” she recalled telling herself.
Ms. Weller was in labor. She gave birth via cesarean section to a boy who weighed barely a pound. She named him Isaiah. As she was lying in bed, pain radiating across her abdomen, she said, a hospital employee asked how she would like to pay. She replied that she had applied for Medicaid, which she hoped would cover the bill.
After five days in the hospital, Isaiah died.
Then Ms. Weller got caught up in Providence’s new, revenue-boosting policies.
The phone calls began about a month after she left the hospital. Ms. Weller remembers panicking when Providence employees told her what she owed: $125,000, or about four times her annual salary.
She said she had repeatedly told Providence that she was already stretched thin as a single mother with a toddler. Providence’s representatives asked if she could pay half the amount. On later calls, she said, she was offered a payment plan.
“It was like they were following some script,” she said. “Like robots.”
Later that year, a Providence executive questioned why Ms. Weller had a balance, given her low income, according to emails disclosed in Washington’s litigation with Providence. A colleague replied that her debts previously would have been forgiven but that Providence’s new policy meant that “balances after Medicaid are being excluded from presumptive charity process.”
Ms. Weller said she had to change her phone number to make the calls stop. Her credit score plummeted from a decent 650 to a lousy 400. She has not paid any of her bill.
Susan C. Beachy and Beena Raghavendran contributed research.
In Buffalo, the focus shifts to why the Bills weren’t aware of the allegations against Araiza when they first selected the San Diego State player.
In the face of a major public backlash and internal questions over the decision to award Matt Araiza the punting job, the Buffalo Bills reversed course by cutting the rookie on Saturday, two days after a lawsuit was filed alleging the player and two college teammates gang-raped a teenager last fall.
The decision to cut ties with their sixth-round draft pick out of San Diego State comes after Buffalo cleared the way for Araiza to take over the punting duties by releasing returning veteran Matt Haack on Monday.
The Bills opted then to keep Araiza even while being aware of the allegations made against him since late July. The team then stood by the player by announcing it “conducted a thorough examination” into the matter a day after the lawsuit was filed.
Araiza’s release begins to ease a crisis which has shaken the team as reflected by coach Sean McDermott having difficulty containing his emotions while discussing the situation following a 21-0 preseason loss at Carolina on Friday night.
Without being specific, McDermott said he was unaware of some of the revelations that came out once the lawsuit was filed a day earlier, and repeatedly said the team has work to do to get to the truth.
“It’s not a situation we take lightly. I’m hurt, I understand they’re hurt,” McDermott said referring to Buffalo’s fanbase. “It’s not easy to hear about some of the things that I’ve heard about over the last several hours say. Haven’t slept a lot to be honest with you.”
McDermott made the call to hold out Araiza from playing against Carolina. The player watched the game from an undisclosed location while also issuing a statement through his agent, Joe Linta, which read: “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Without another punter on the roster, third-string quarterback Matt Barkley handled the punting duties.
A lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court accused Araiza and two teammates of raping a then-17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at an off-campus home where Araiza had been living. A San Diego police investigation has been turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to pursue charges. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said Friday there was no timeline as to how long a decision will take.
In Buffalo, the focus shifts to why the Bills weren’t aware of the allegations against Araiza when selecting the San Diego State player in the sixth round of the draft in April. Though he was college football’s top punter last year, and earned the nickname “Punt God” because of a booming left leg, Araiza was the third punter selected in the draft.
It’s unclear whether Araiza informed the NFL about the allegations in the months leading up to the draft.
Executives from two different teams told The Associated Press they became aware of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the draft process, but neither person knew the extent of the allegations. Executives from three other teams said they had no knowledge of the allegations against Araiza before the draft and only learned of the incident Thursday. All the people spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Though it’s unclear when the Bills first became aware of the allegations, they knew by the end of July when Dan Gilleon, the lawyer representing the alleged victim identified in the lawsuit as “Jane Doe,” contacted the team’s legal counsel, Kathryn D’Angelo, by email.
“She seemed like she was concerned. She says she’ll get back to me, and then she never did,” Gilleon said. “I even followed up and said, `Hey, you guys haven’t talked to me and called me back like you said you would.’ And they just ignored that, too.”
Without saying when, Araiza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, said he also informed his client to be upfront and inform the Bills about the allegations. Armstrong said he also kept in regular contact with the Bills over the past month to provide details of his own investigation into what happened.
“I 100% do not believe that he ever forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that,” Armstrong said.
The Bills also conducted what they called a “thorough examination,” which eventually led to their decision to cut Haack.
The Bills also informed the NFL of the incident once they were made aware of it, a person familiar with the situation told The AP. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, wasn’t certain of the timeline.
The NFL declined to comment except to say it was aware of the matter.
“Everybody believed during 2021 that we’d see a significant shift away from goods back to services as the economic environment opened up as we got our arms around the pandemic,” Craig Menear, Home Depot’s chief executive, told analysts after the company reported its earnings Tuesday. “Clearly, we have not seen that.”
Strong October sales may partly reflect an early start to the holiday shopping season. In mid-September, L.L. Bean added a banner to its website warning customers about holiday shipping delays and shortages and urging early shopping. Best Buy offered its Black Friday deals well before Halloween, from Oct. 19 to Oct. 22. Target started “early Black Friday” deals on Oct. 31.
Understand the Supply Chain Crisis
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Almost anything manufactured is in short supply. That includes everything from toilet paper to new cars. The disruptions go back to the beginning of the pandemic, when factories in Asia and Europe were forced to shut down and shipping companies cut their schedules.
Now, ports are struggling to keep up. In North America and Europe, where containers are arriving, the heavy influx of ships is overwhelming ports. With warehouses full, containers are piling up. The chaos in global shipping is likely to persist as a result of the massive traffic jam.
“I’m sure some folks started looking earlier because of worries that they won’t be able to find the item they’re looking for once everybody gets out to shop,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global.
There are some signs, however, that shortages are beginning to ease, in part because retailers, too, shopped early this year. At the Port of Los Angeles, holiday orders usually begin arriving in late August or early September; this year, they began arriving in June, Gene Seroka, executive director of the port, said at an event on Tuesday with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Economists warned that if consumers simply got a head start on holiday spending, that could lead to disappointing sales in November and December. But most forecasters expect spending to remain strong because of the improved public health picture and the underlying strength of the U.S. economy.
Unemployment has fallen to 4.6 percent, from close to 20 percent at the height of the pandemic, and wages are rising, particularly for low-income workers. Households are sitting on a collective $2.5 trillion in savings built up during the pandemic — and, unlike last Christmas, when the pandemic reduced the appeal of browsing, fitting rooms and lingering indoors, many Americans feel comfortable going out and spending.
Tom Nolan, chief executive of Kendra Scott, a fashion jewelry business with 119 locations, said that its sales were up “materially” over both last year and 2019 and that he expected the performance to continue through the end of the year.
SAN FRANCISCO — Pinterest has held talks to buy VSCO, a photography app that spawned a teenage social media craze, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The discussions are ongoing, said the people, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly. A deal price couldn’t be learned; Pinterest has a market capitalization of about $49 billion, while VSCO has raised $90 million in funding and was last valued at $550 million. An acquisition may not materialize, the people cautioned.
Representatives from Pinterest and VSCO (pronounced “vis-coe”) declined to comment on deal talks.
Julie Inouye, a spokeswoman for VSCO, said the company was focused on expanding its business. “We’re always meeting with different companies across the creative space at any given time and do not discuss rumors or speculation,” she said.
Pinterest and VSCO, which stands for Visual Supply Company, are part of a group of tech companies that are highly focused on digital images and visual editing and that rely less on social networking features. Pinterest, a digital pin board site that went public in 2019, lets its users discover and save images to inspire creative projects or to plan important aspects of their lives, including home renovations, weddings and meals.
an app for editing and sharing images and videos. In 2019, it became popular with a Generation Z group that came to be known as “VSCO girls,” who were known for wearing Crocs and carrying Hydro Flasks. The idea of VSCO girls went viral, inspiring social media imitation, mockery, memes and Halloween costumes.
For Pinterest, buying a once-buzzy start-up that was popular with younger audiences and that has expertise in photo- and video-editing technologies could bolster its core service, the people said.
Since Pinterest went public, its revenue has grown, though analysts have said they don’t expect Pinterest to become regularly profitable until 2022. It has also expanded internationally.
During the pandemic, the company experienced a surge of interest as people were locked down and turned to more digital activities. Pinterest added 100 million monthly active users last year and now has a total of 450 million monthly active users.
The San Francisco company also faced social unrest last year. In December, it agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle a gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit from its former chief operating officer, one of the largest publicly announced individual settlements for gender discrimination. Two female employees of color who quit last year also publicly discussed their experiences with racist and sexist comments, pay inequities and retaliation at the company.
Founded in 2011, VSCO became known among younger users as a kind of anti-social network. The app does not have likes, comments or follower counts, so it appeared to put less pressure on users to build up a fan base. VSCO also eschews advertising, instead earning money by charging people for extra features. Of its 100 million registered users, more than two million are paying subscribers.
When VSCO girls became a cultural phenomenon in late 2019, investor interest in the start-up swelled. But the fad has since cooled off. When the pandemic hit, VSCO laid off 30 percent of its employees. In December, it acquired Trash, a mobile app for video editing, and said it planned to continue acquiring companies in 2021.
It was never going to be easy to succeed Tony Hsieh, the celebrated chief executive of Zappos, who turned a tiny online shoe seller into a $1 billion behemoth through an obsessive focus on corporate culture and happy employees. But Kedar Deshpande took over at a particularly fraught time.
Zappos, which is owned by Amazon, was already navigating remote work and grappling with pandemic-driven changes in how people shop when Mr. Hsieh abruptly retired in August after two decades, which led Mr. Deshpande to be named C.E.O. Then in November, tragedy struck: Mr. Hsieh, 46, died from injuries suffered in a house fire in New London, Conn., sending shock waves throughout the roughly 1,500-person company, as well as tech and entrepreneurial circles.
Since then, it has been reported that Mr. Hsieh had been behaving erratically for months and that friends had considered staging an intervention last summer. The revelations brought new scrutiny to the circumstances of his exit from Zappos.
Mr. Deshpande, who was previously Zappos’s chief operating officer, said that when Mr. Hsieh told him last summer that he wanted to pursue other projects, he did not push back.
Las Vegas can survive without its chief architect.
has claimed that it is harder to get a job at Zappos than it is to get into Harvard.
Mr. Deshpande said Zappos employees had become closer in some ways in the past year as they brought family or pets into the remote-work fold.
“The Ones,” which is tailored for female sneakerheads and advertised as “powered by Zappos.”
VRSNL, a luxury site that has its own web address and no visible link to the shoe site. It features wares from designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Proenza Schouler. The company has been pouring new effort into product detail pages and informational videos catered to audiences like new runners, and even co-developing merchandise and campaigns with the brands it carries.
“What online fails to deliver, which physical delivers today, is around these different experiences,” Mr. Deshpande said. “Until you actually go and deliver on these experiences, people will go back to the physical, in my opinion, and they will stay online for only transactional experiences.”
The company refers to these efforts as “experience commerce,” and said the category was driving 25 percent of its investments. Outside of prompting consumers to explore more, Zappos is also trying to make online shopping more cohesive — all with the aim of getting consumers to spend more money over time.
“One of the challenges has been that when somebody walks into ‘online,’ somebody looking for a jacket, for example, we show them inventory next to each other — like a $30 jacket, $50, $100, $300,” Mr. Deshpande said. “This is a very disorienting experience.”
In his view, all of the efforts are in line with Zappos’s obsessive focus on service for the past 20 years, which he anticipates remaining its focus for the next 20 years.
While the company is still grieving Mr. Hsieh, Mr. Deshpande said, employees will continue to embody the values that he championed. He pointed to an instance during the holidays when one employee mentioned children missing out on meeting Santa Claus during the pandemic, leading to a multidepartment effort to set up Santa Zoom meetings for children around the country.
“To me, Tony’s legacy is around delivering this happiness to everybody,” Mr. Deshpande said. “This culture he has created or pioneered, it’s going to be alive.”
“Our teams, our families and our friends have all been affected by the rise in hate crimes toward Asian people and it’s unacceptable,” Mr. Lynch wrote in the memo, which was reviewed by The Times.
Ms. McCammond had been vetted before Condé Nast hired her, and top executives including Mr. Lynch and Anna Wintour, the chief content officer and the global editorial director of Vogue, were aware of the decade-old racist tweets, Mr. Duncan said in his note on Thursday, and Ms. McCammond acknowledged them in interviews with the company.
Ms. Wintour discussed the tweets with leaders of color at Condé Nast before the job was offered, according to a company executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a personnel issue. Ms. McCammond struck Condé Nast leaders as an impressive candidate, the executive said, and they felt her 2019 apology showed that she had learned from her mistakes.
Although the company was aware of the racist tweets, it did not know about the homophobic tweets or a photo, also from 2011, that was recently published by a right-wing website showing her in Native American costume at a Halloween party, the executive said. The vetting process did not turn up the additional material because it had been deleted, the executive added.
Condé Nast has reckoned with complaints of racism in its workplace and content over the past year. In June, amid the Black Lives Matter protests, Ms. Wintour sent a note to the Vogue staff, writing that, under her leadership, the magazine had not given enough space to “Black editors, writers, photographers, designers and other creators” and acknowledging that it had published “images or stories that have been hurtful or intolerant.”
Adam Rapoport, the editor in chief of another Condé Nast publication, Bon Appétit, resigned in June after a photo of him resurfaced on social media, drawing condemnations from the staff for an offensive depiction of Puerto Ricans.
In the last two weeks, as complaints mounted, Ms. Wintour tried to build support for the would-be Teen Vogue editor. Ms. McCammond also participated in meetings with Condé Nast staff members and other groups to apologize further and listen to their concerns, including one-on-one talks with journalists at Teen Vogue, according to six people with knowledge of the meetings.
Hundreds of people gathered for the first lecture at what had become the world’s most important conference on artificial intelligence — row after row of faces. Some were East Asian, a few were Indian, and a few were women. But the vast majority were white men. More than 5,500 people attended the meeting, five years ago in Barcelona, Spain.
Timnit Gebru, then a graduate student at Stanford University, remembers counting only six Black people other than herself, all of whom she knew, all of whom were men.
The homogeneous crowd crystallized for her a glaring issue. The big thinkers of tech say A.I. is the future. It will underpin everything from search engines and email to the software that drives our cars, directs the policing of our streets and helps create our vaccines.
But it is being built in a way that replicates the biases of the almost entirely male, predominantly white work force making it.
especially with the current hype and demand for people in the field,” she wrote. “The people creating the technology are a big part of the system. If many are actively excluded from its creation, this technology will benefit a few while harming a great many.”
The A.I. community buzzed about the mini-manifesto. Soon after, Dr. Gebru helped create a new organization, Black in A.I. After finishing her Ph.D., she was hired by Google.
She teamed with Margaret Mitchell, who was building a group inside Google dedicated to “ethical A.I.” Dr. Mitchell had previously worked in the research lab at Microsoft. She had grabbed attention when she told Bloomberg News in 2016 that A.I. suffered from a “sea of dudes” problem. She estimated that she had worked with hundreds of men over the previous five years and about 10 women.
said she had been fired after criticizing Google’s approach to minority hiring and, with a research paper, highlighting the harmful biases in the A.I. systems that underpin Google’s search engine and other services.
“Your life starts getting worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people,” Dr. Gebru said in an email before her firing. “You start making the other leaders upset.”
As Dr. Mitchell defended Dr. Gebru, the company removed her, too. She had searched through her own Google email account for material that would support their position and forwarded emails to another account, which somehow got her into trouble. Google declined to comment for this article.
Their departure became a point of contention for A.I. researchers and other tech workers. Some saw a giant company no longer willing to listen, too eager to get technology out the door without considering its implications. I saw an old problem — part technological and part sociological — finally breaking into the open.
talking digital assistants and conversational “chatbots,” Google Photos relied on an A.I. system that learned its skills by analyzing enormous amounts of digital data.
Called a “neural network,” this mathematical system could learn tasks that engineers could never code into a machine on their own. By analyzing thousands of photos of gorillas, it could learn to recognize a gorilla. It was also capable of egregious mistakes. The onus was on engineers to choose the right data when training these mathematical systems. (In this case, the easiest fix was to eliminate “gorilla” as a photo category.)
As a software engineer, Mr. Alciné understood the problem. He compared it to making lasagna. “If you mess up the lasagna ingredients early, the whole thing is ruined,” he said. “It is the same thing with A.I. You have to be very intentional about what you put into it. Otherwise, it is very difficult to undo.”
the study drove a backlash against facial recognition technology and, particularly, its use in law enforcement. Microsoft’s chief legal officer said the company had turned down sales to law enforcement when there was concern the technology could unreasonably infringe on people’s rights, and he made a public call for government regulation.
Twelve months later, Microsoft backed a bill in Washington State that would require notices to be posted in public places using facial recognition and ensure that government agencies obtained a court order when looking for specific people. The bill passed, and it takes effect later this year. The company, which did not respond to a request for comment for this article, did not back other legislation that would have provided stronger protections.
Ms. Buolamwini began to collaborate with Ms. Raji, who moved to M.I.T. They started testing facial recognition technology from a third American tech giant: Amazon. The company had started to market its technology to police departments and government agencies under the name Amazon Rekognition.
Ms. Buolamwini and Ms. Raji published a study showing that an Amazon face service also had trouble identifying the sex of female and darker-skinned faces. According to the study, the service mistook women for men 19 percent of the time and misidentified darker-skinned women for men 31 percent of the time. For lighter-skinned males, the error rate was zero.
New York Times article that described it.
In an open letter, Dr. Mitchell and Dr. Gebru rejected Amazon’s argument and called on it to stop selling to law enforcement. The letter was signed by 25 artificial intelligence researchers from Google, Microsoft and academia.
Last June, Amazon backed down. It announced that it would not let the police use its technology for at least a year, saying it wanted to give Congress time to create rules for the ethical use of the technology. Congress has yet to take up the issue. Amazon declined to comment for this article.
The End at Google
Dr. Gebru and Dr. Mitchell had less success fighting for change inside their own company. Corporate gatekeepers at Google were heading them off with a new review system that had lawyers and even communications staff vetting research papers.
Dr. Gebru’s dismissal in December stemmed, she said, from the company’s treatment of a research paper she wrote alongside six other researchers, including Dr. Mitchell and three others at Google. The paper discussed ways that a new type of language technology, including a system built by Google that underpins its search engine, can show bias against women and people of color.
After she submitted the paper to an academic conference, Dr. Gebru said, a Google manager demanded that she either retract the paper or remove the names of Google employees. She said she would resign if the company could not tell her why it wanted her to retract the paper and answer other concerns.
Cade Metz is a technology correspondent at The Times and the author of “Genius Makers: The Mavericks Who Brought A.I. to Google, Facebook, and the World,” from which this article is adapted.
Halloween is around the corner, which means it’s time for creepy costumes, haunted houses, and enough candy to satisfy any sweet tooth.
Every year, Zillow’s candy-loving economists crunch the numbers to find out which cities are best for your little monsters to score the best goodies. To figure out where kids can trick-or-treat with lots of other children and get the most candy in the shortest amount of time, Zillow researchers look at home values, how close homes are to each other, crime rate and the share of population under 10 years old.
Check out the complete Trick-or-Treat Index and neighborhood rankings for each city below.
Zillow researchers calculate the Trick-or-Treat Index using four different variables. They look at the Zillow Home Value Index, which shows the value of homes in single family residences. They also look at local crime data, how close each house is to its neighbor, and the age of the residents who live there. This data combines to give us the safest cities to trick or treat, where trick-or-treaters can get the best candy, in the least amount of time.