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Police departments are turning to AI to sift through millions of hours of unreviewed body-cam footage

Over the last decade, police departments across the U.S. have spent millions of dollars equipping their officers with body-worn cameras that record what happens as they go about their work. Everything from traffic stops to welfare checks to responses to active shooters is now documented on video. The cameras were pitched by national and local law enforcement authorities as a tool for building public trust between police and their communities in the wake of police killings of civilians like Michael Brown, an 18 year old black teenager killed in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.

At Washington State University’s Complex Social Interactions Lab, researchers use a combination of human reviewers and AI to analyze video. The lab began its work seven years ago, teaming up with the Pullman, Washington, police department. The lab has a team of around 50 reviewers — drawn from the university’s own students — who comb through video to track things like the race of officers and civilians, the time of day, and whether officers gave explanations for their actions, such as why they pulled someone over. The reviewers note when an officer uses force, if officers and civilians interrupt each other and whether an officer explains that the interaction is being recorded. They also note how agitated officers and civilians are at each point in the video.

Machine learning algorithms are then used to look for correlations between these features and the outcome of each police encounter.

“From that labeled data, you’re able to apply machine learning so that we’re able to get to predictions so we can start to isolate and figure out, well, when these kind of confluences of events happen, this actually minimizes the likelihood of this outcome,” said David Makin, who heads the lab and also serves on the Pullman Police Advisory Committee.

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High maternal cortisol levels linked to unexpected birth problems

A snippet of hair can reveal a pregnant person’s stress level and may one day help warn of unexpected birth problems, a study indicates.

Washington State University researchers measured the stress hormone cortisol in hair samples of 53 women in their third trimester. Of that group, 13 women who had elevated cortisol levels later experienced unpredicted birth complications, such as an early birth or hemorrhaging.

While more research is needed with larger groups, this preliminary finding could eventually lead to a non-invasive way to identify those at risk for such complications. The researchers reported their findings in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

“There was otherwise nothing about these women that would suggest a disease or anything else complicating the pregnancy. This confirmed some hypotheses that levels of stress, related specifically to cortisol levels, might be associated with adverse birth outcomes,” said Erica Crespi, a WSU developmental biologist and study’s corresponding author.

As part of the study, the participants all answered survey questions about their levels of psychological distress in addition to having cortisol measurements taken in the third trimester of pregnancy and after they gave birth. The women who experienced unexpected birth complications had elevated cortisol concentrations in their hair, a measure that indicates the stress hormone’s circulating levels in the body during the three months prior to collection.

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WSU Insider
The Lancet
Physician’s Weekly
Contemporary OB/GYN

Multi-generational toxicant exposures show cumulative, inherited health effects

While exposure to a single substance like DDT has been shown to create inherited disease susceptibility, a recent study in animals found exposure to multiple different toxicants across generations can amplify those health problems.

In the study, published in the journal Environmental Epigenetics, an initial generation of pregnant rats was exposed to a common fungicide, then their progeny to jet fuel and the following generation to DDT. When those rats were then bred out to a fifth unexposed generation, the incidence of obesity as well as kidney and prostate diseases in those animals were compounded, rising by as much as 70%.

Researchers also found that their epigenetics, molecular processes independent of DNA that influence gene expression, were also greatly altered.

“We looked at multiple-generation exposures because these types of things are going on routinely, and previous research has only looked at single exposures,” said Michael Skinner, a WSU biology professor and the study’s corresponding author. “We found that if multiple generations get different exposures, then eventually there’s an amplification or compounded effect on some diseases.”

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Science Daily
WSU Insider

Pomeroy School District hasn’t had a music teacher for nearly four years

In June 2020, Marcus Pederson retired from his 35-year career of teaching band at the Pomeroy School District. Since then, the only district in Washington’s least populous county has been unable to hire a replacement. The reasons are unclear, but could have to do with the smaller district’s ability to offer a competitive salary, pressures on young music teachers or the challenge of recruiting teachers to rural schools.

Martin King, professor of music education at Washington State University, said WSU encourages its graduating students to apply for open jobs like this.

“It is always a concern that if a position like this goes unfilled, eventually the program may be cut,” King said. “We do not want that outcome.” From his perspective, rural schools face challenges in hiring specialists that they may not have in filling other faculty positions.

Part of it is a numbers game. King said there are more open music educator jobs in Washington than qualified teachers.

The majority of music students come from more populous areas, and these students are more likely to want to return to these areas to teach. They may feel uncomfortable moving to a rural town or teaching at a smaller school.

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The Spokesman-Review

Uncovering Ancient Maya

In the third episode of season three, Mae and Alyssa interview Dr. Rachel Horowitz, assistant professor of anthropology at Washington State University.

Listen in as Dr. Horowitz discusses how Classic Maya communities in Belize made and used chert stone tools, and what analyzing tool production processes can tell us about the ancient economy. Alyssa, Mae, and Dr. Horowitz discuss the broader socio-economic implications of chert quarrying and production and what stone tools can tell us about rituals related to the underworld.

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