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Help! How Can I Be a Better Mentor?

Help! How Can I Be a Better Mentor?

My company started a mentorship program mid-pandemic, and I was assigned to mentor a young and extremely talented colleague. I’m thrilled about this! But I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’m not doing enough for her. We check in regularly and talk about a mix of big-picture issues and specific projects she’s working on, but I don’t control her work assignments, and we can’t meet in person, and I don’t know if I’m having the impact she was looking for when she signed up. How can I be a better mentor?

–New York

The good news, New York, is that simply by having a mentor, your young colleague is already ahead of the game. While 75 percent of professional workers crave mentorship, according to Harvard Business Review, just 37 percent of them say they have a mentor. So take heart that you’re making some sort of difference just by being present.

I will confess, though, to some mixed feelings about company-sponsored mentorship programs. It’s better than nothing, of course: At many (most?) workplaces, you’re left to sink or swim on your own, with some help from a supportive boss if you’re exceptionally lucky. But in my experience, official mentoring programs often feel like they’re more about HR ticking a box than reflecting actual corporate values. Companies often start these efforts in response to employee complaints that they don’t see a path to advancement—and doubly so for women and people of color.

But this approach is a bit of a square peg in a round hole. The biggest problem is that true mentorship is not about helping someone get promoted (or at least not solely so). CEOs need mentorship just as much as their assistants do. And companies are mostly terrible at creating clear paths for advancement, especially for those people they’ve neglected for years or decades. But fixing that requires putting in the hard, slow work of changing the company, not just spending a few hours pairing people up.

In fact, some research has found that women suffer from too much mentorship, when what they actually need is sponsorship—not someone to give them advice, but rather someone advocating for them to get a promotion or a raise. Personally, I’ve encountered many more men eager to offer life lessons, solicited or not, than ones interested in making sure I get credit for my work or a seat at the table for consequential meetings. The latter group, though, is the one who has made the much bigger impact on my career. Meanwhile, my best mentors have always been peers, not superiors—the kind of people I can go to with a “Hey, how are you dealing with this?” or who will suggest my name for opportunities.

None of this is to say that mentorship doesn’t matter, though, or that there’s no point in aspiring to be a better mentor to your young colleague. But in order to do it, you’re going to need to be very clear about her goals. Your question specifies that this is a voluntary program, so understanding what was on her mind when she signed up will be core to a productive relationship. If you didn’t do this earlier, it’s not too late—the first part of your relationship may have been about getting to know each other; chapter two can be more mission-focused.

A disproportionate amount of the burden of making a relationship feel fruitful is necessarily going to fall on the mentee, not the mentor. Only she knows how you can be most helpful to her, and you should ask her directly. (People are often afraid of awkwardness when asking “What do you want from me?” but OOO comes down firmly on the side of being direct.) Does she aspire to a career like yours? Does she need a senior person to whom she can put questions too delicate to take to her boss? Or is she mostly looking for someone to bounce ideas off?

Author: Megan Greenwell
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

High global demand sends Russian Urals crude oil price soaring

High global demand sends Russian Urals crude oil price soaring

Russia’s Ministry of Finance said on Wednesday that the average price for domestic Urals oil benchmark stood at $ 62.50 per barrel in April, which is a 340% increase in annual terms.

According to the ministry, in the first four months of the year the average price for the Russian export oil brand was $ 60.47 per barrel, compared with the average price of $ 41.04 per barrel during the same period of 2020.

Experts say that the price rise was primarily due to the recovery of global demand for fuel and the fulfillment of the terms of the OPEC+ deal. 
Also on Oil prices rally towards $ 70 as demand outlook improves
The current rise in the price of Russian oil is also due to the peculiarities of its composition, says Viktor Parno, Argus’ vice president for business development in Russia, CIS and Baltic States. He explained to RT Russia that Urals crude is characterized by a high sulfur content, while Brent and American WTI are considered lighter grades.

“From time to time, the market situation develops in such a way that medium-heavy varieties become more popular than light ones. In terms of supply volumes, Urals is now the most demanded oil grade in Europe,” Parno said, adding that the main importers in the region are Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and a number of other EU countries.

According to him, China and Japan are also among the major buyers of Russian oil.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Trump’s Facebook Ban Is Upheld—For Now

Trump’s Facebook Ban Is Upheld—For Now

The Facebook Oversight Board is often described as a “Supreme Court” for Facebook. On Wednesday, it acted like it—issuing a finely grained ruling that punts the hardest question posed to it back down for Mark Zuckerberg to deal with.

The issue before the board, in case you haven’t turned on the news or checked Twitter this week, was whether to uphold Facebook’s indefinite ban of Donald Trump’s account following his role in inciting the January 6 riot at the Capitol. It was, by far, the most hotly anticipated decision in the Oversight Board’s young existence. Since the company referred the case to the board on January 21, it received over 9,000 public comments on the matter. As of Wednesday, the Trump ban remains in place—but the decision still isn’t final.

Specifically, Facebook asked the Oversight Board to decide:

Considering Facebook’s values, specifically its commitment to voice and safety, did it correctly decide on January 7, 2021, to prohibit Donald J. Trump’s access to posting content on Facebook and Instagram for an indefinite amount of time?

The board’s answer was yes—and no. Yes, Facebook was right to suspend Trump’s account; no, it was wrong to do so indefinitely. “In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities,” the board wrote in its decision. “The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.” In other words, Facebook must decide whether to let Trump back immediately, place a clear end date on his suspension, or kick him off its platforms forever.

While the board took Facebook to task for refusing to take a clearer stand, it also endorsed the immediate logic of the takedown. The original decision to deactivate Trump’s account was made under extraordinary circumstances. With the violent attack on the US Capitol still raging, Trump made a series of posts, including a video, in which he told his followers to go home—but in which he also repeated the false claim that the election had been stolen, the very idea motivating his rioting supporters. “This was a fraudulent election, but we can’t play into the hands of these people,” he said in the video. “We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.” By the next day, Facebook had taken the posts down and suspended Trump entirely from its platform, as well as from Instagram and WhatsApp. (Twitter and YouTube did likewise.)

It was clear all along that the content of the offending posts was far from Trump’s most egregious—after all, he was at least telling the rioters to go home—and didn’t obviously violate any clear rule. Trump had been using Facebook to broadcast the stolen-election myth for months, after all. What had changed was not Trump’s online behavior, then, but the offline consequences of it. In a blog post explaining Facebook’s decision, Mark Zuckerberg tacitly recognized as much. “We removed these statements yesterday because we judged that their effect—and likely their intent—would be to provoke further violence,” he wrote. While the platform previously tolerated Trump, “the current context is now fundamentally different, involving use of our platform to incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.” Trump would remain banned “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

The decision was a striking departure from Facebook’s normal approach to moderation in two ways. First, the company explicitly looked not just at the content of the posts but at the real-world context. Second, it departed from its “newsworthiness” rule that generally gives political leaders extra leeway to break the rules, on the theory that people deserve to know what they have to say.

Author: Gilad Edelman
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Germany doubles purchases of Russian natural gas in March

Germany doubles purchases of Russian natural gas in March

The biggest importer of Russian natural gas, Germany, doubled year-on-year purchases of the pipeline fuel in March 2021, according to the latest figures revealed by the Federal Customs Service.

Purchases of Russian gas neared 4.5 billion cubic meters, marking a robust growth of 66.3% compared to the same period a year ago. Germany imported 4.6 billion cubic meters of gas in February – a year-on-year increase of 63.3%.

Year-on-year exports to Italy, Gazprom’s second-biggest buyer, dropped 41.5% to some 1.3 billion cubic meters, but exports in March surged 467% compared to the previous month. France imported 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas in March, marking a more than 15% increase compared to March 2020, and a surge of nearly 29.5% month-on-month.
Also on Russian gas exports to Europe surge 30% in 2021 as harsh winter forces foreign consumers to boost energy purchases
Serbia purchased 245.5 million cubic meters of gas from Russia, recording a year-on-year growth of 138%, while Bulgaria’s imports saw an upsurge of 51.41% to 269.8 million cubic meters. Hungary imported 763.7 million cubic meters – up 31.6% compared to March 2020. Sales to Greece rose 35.9% to 276.1 million cubic meters.

Meanwhile, exports to Turkey surged to 2.628 billion cubic meters from the 394.1 million cubic meters recorded in March 2020, marking a massive growth of 567%.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Oversight Board to Facebook: We’re Not Doing Your Dirty Work

Oversight Board to Facebook: We’re Not Doing Your Dirty Work

On January 21, Facebook asked its Oversight Board to review its decision to indefinitely ban Donald Trump, and guide it on whether it should allow the former president to post again. You could see it as the ultimate buck-passing. For three years, Facebook has been setting up an elaborate structure for a supposedly independent body to review its content decisions. And now that the 20-member board has just begun to hear cases, Facebook outsourced it with perhaps the company’s most controversial decision ever. Would Donald Trump return to social media, attacking those who displeased him and insisting that he actually won the election? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told his shiny new board to make the call.

But the board did not play. While affirming that Facebook was correct to suspend the Trump account for its riot-coddling posts on January 6, today it called out the company for inventing a penalty that wasn’t part of its policies—an “indefinite” suspension. The board told Facebook to take six months and get its own rules straight, and then make the Trump restoration decision itself.

In a press call following the release of the ruling, board co-chair and Stanford law professor Michael McConnell made it clear that the board was not interested in bailing out Facebook. “We are not cops,” he said. “Our sole purpose is to hold Facebook accountable.”

The practical effect of the ruling means that Trump won’t be back on Facebook for a while. Much of the nation will breathe a sigh of relief, and others will continue to believe that the ban is part of a liberal plot. But the decision may well be the defining moment for the putative Supreme Court of Facebook.

Facebook’s impetus for setting up the board was to get an outside voice to review important decisions the company had to make about content. By 2018, no one trusted Facebook to make those calls. And with good reason. When it came to the most controversial situations, the process among the top policy executives was very much influenced by politics and business. One of the most powerful voices in the virtual room on such decisions is Facebook’s vice president of global policy, Joel Kaplan, a former GOP operative and bestie of Brett Kavanaugh. Ultimately, decisions rise to Zuckerberg, who as CEO is very much aware of how Facebook’s speech decisions affect its reputation and business prospects.

Zuckerberg actually agreed with critics who said no one person should have the power of such decisions on a platform of 3 billion people. He set up the board and funded it with $ 130 million, so that key content decisions on Facebook and Instagram could be appealed to a group of illustrious figures in human rights, politics, and media instead. The board members quickly realized that their main challenge would be proving themselves as truly independent of the company that formed the organization. Its early decisions provided clues that the relationship might evolve to an adversarial one. In one case involving content that Facebook took down, Facebook told the board to stop deliberating because it had reversed its original takedown and the issue was moot. The board went ahead anyway, wanting to weigh in on the issue.

The Trump decision represented the clearest declaration yet that the board would not be Facebook’s flunky. Maybe Zuckerberg envisioned that, in determining whether Trump should return, the board would unroll a litany of bilious Trump posts to justify its ruling. But the board’s affirmation of Facebook’s removal of the January 6 posts was quick and anodyne. Trump’s representatives had submitted a brief that claimed it was “inconceivable” that the former president’s posts could be seen as an incitement to violence, a claim belied by injured and dead people on the Capitol grounds. Nonetheless, the board’s scorn was less directed at Mar a Lago than Menlo Park. “It’s more of a decision that concerns Facebook and its uses rather than Trump,” said board co-chair and former Denmark prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt in the press call. “Facebook shunned its responsibility. They have to follow their own rules.”

Author: Steven Levy
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Oil nears $70 buoyed by summer demand outlook & US inventories drop

Oil nears $70 buoyed by summer demand outlook & US inventories drop

The price of crude continued to rise for a third day on Wednesday amid reports of a sharp drop in US stockpiles and expectations of a summer surge in fuel demand.

Global benchmark Brent rose 1.23% to trade at $ 69.73 a barrel as of 13:21GMT. US West Texas Intermediate also climbed more than one percent to $ 66.48 per barrel, while US gasoline futures reached their highest since July 2018.

According to Stephen Brennock of oil broker PVM, “A return to $ 70 oil is edging closer to becoming reality.” He told Reuters that “The jump in oil prices came amid expectations of strong demand as western economies reopen. Indeed, anticipation of a pick-up in fuel and energy usage in the United States and Europe over the summer months is running high.”
Also on As Americans think about booking a vacation, RT’s Boom Bust asks if airlines are ready for a travel surge after a slow year
Analysts say that crude prices were also supported by a large fall in US inventories as the American Petroleum Institute industry group reportedly revealed crude stockpiles plunging by 7.7 million barrels in the week ended April 30. 

“If confirmed by the EIA, that would mark the largest weekly fall in the official data since late January,” Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar was quoted by Reuters as having said.

All those factors have offset a drop in fuel demand in the world’s third-largest oil consumer, India, which is struggling with a surge in coronavirus infections. “However, if we were to eventually see a national lockdown imposed, this would likely hit sentiment,” ING Economics analysts said of the situation in the South Asian country.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

Britain continues to be the main buyer of Russian gold

Britain continues to be the main buyer of Russian gold

Data from the Federal Customs Service showed that Russia’s exports of gold surged 220% in March year-on-year, amounting to 26.5 tons, worth almost $ 1.5 billion.

Exports were 2.3 times higher than in the previous month, the report revealed.

The United Kingdom remained the major buyer of Russian gold, purchasing 21.1 tons, worth $ 1.2 billion. Data, however, did not show whether the purchased gold will stay in the UK or will be sent to other countries, since London is an important world hub for the turnover and storage of precious metals.
Also on Russia’s foreign exchange reserves continue to rise despite sanctions & pandemic
According to the statistics, around 1.5 tons of Russian gold has been exported to Turkey and India. The precious metal was also delivered to Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Armenia, and other countries.

Overall, Russia’s gold exports in the first quarter of 2021 amounted to 51.8 tons, worth $ 3 billion. In physical terms that’s a 72% increase from the same period in 2020.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News

China’s first comprehensive digital privacy legislation seeks to keep Big Tech in check

Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) – China’s first comprehensive digital privacy legislation seeks to keep Big Tech in check

China's first comprehensive digital privacy legislation

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China is trying to tighten regulations on how personal data on Chinese citizens is collected as part of a larger effort to limit the power of Big Tech companies like Tencent and Alibaba.

A strong data protection framework can assist countries in defining how the next-generation internet will look like and could become a political issue as China is competing with the US in the technology sector.

However, the move has sparked controversy about whether the same rules will extend to the government, which some would argue is the country’s largest data processor.

Last year, Beijing released a draft version of the Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL), which, for the first time, laid out a comprehensive set of regulations concerning data collection and protection.

Over the past few years, Chinese tech giants were able to grow unhindered and collect vast data sets, which they used to train algorithms and build products.

As the use of technology increases, there has been a global push for more stringent regulations that protect consumer data and privacy.

In 2018 we saw the European Union put its landmark General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into effect. The GDPR gives EU citizens more control over their data and gives authorities the power to sanction businesses that break the rules. In contrast to Europe, the United States has yet to pass comprehensive data protection legislation.

Now China is attempting to introduce regulatory changes similar to those implemented in the European Union.

For years, Chinese tech companies have profited from the Chinese public’s lack of awareness concerning digital privacy. There are numerous articles on the internet warning people from other countries about the risks of using Chinese software, especially this one about Chinese VPNs keeping logs of user data.

But these days, Chinese people have become more knowledgeable, and they’re frustrated with companies exploiting their personal information.

In February, China amended antitrust regulations for platform economy companies which refers to internet companies that provide services such as food delivery and e-commerce. Data protection and antitrust regulations are part of the Chinese government’s efforts to reel in some of the power large tech companies have accumulated.

What is PIPL and what does it mean for Big Tech?

The Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL) applies to China’s citizens as well as the individuals and companies processing their data.

The following are the key PIPL provisions:

  • Individuals or companies that wish to collect data from users must first obtain consent from them, and the users have the right to revoke that consent.
  • Individuals or companies that wish to collect data from users may not refuse to provide services to users who don’t agree to their data being collected unless that data is required for the service to be provided.
  • Users can request their data from data processors.
  • Strict regulations regarding the transfer of Chinese citizens’ data outside of China, including obtaining permission from the government.
  • Any individual or company found in violation of PIPL may be fined up to 50 million yuan ($7.6 million), or 5% of their annual turnover. They may also be compelled to shut down some of their operations.

In short, the PIPL means that China’s internet giants will face more scrutiny, and their business models will have to adjust. Whether domestic or international, the period of “exponential growth in the wilderness” is over for Chinese technology companies.

The PIPL is just one part of Beijing’s push to regulate the country’s major tech companies, which gained traction after Ant Group’s record $34.5 billion IPO was suspended in November.

The Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s business empire has been in the news a lot lately, with Alibaba receiving a fine of 18.23 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) from China’s State Administration for Market Regulation.

The fine is a result of an anti-monopoly investigation into the company’s practices launched in December. Regulators found that Alibaba’s practices allowed it to gain an unfair competitive advantage.

Pony Ma, the founder of gaming giant Tencent which owns WeChat, a very popular social networking app in China, has also met with officials to discuss his company’s compliance with regulations.

Political motivations

China’s efforts to regulate its tech sector are partly motivated by its ambition to become a leader in the industry. Whichever country wins the race in terms of legislative breakthrough and development models will shape the internet of the future generation.

Countries with strong data regulations will have greater power if there is a version of WTO rules for the digital economy. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a 164-member organization aiming to establish rules on global trade.

While the United States has yet to adopt comprehensive national data security legislation, China’s ambitions to dominate the tech industry are growing. Last month, it laid out seven technology areas it plans to focus on in terms of research and development.

These areas are:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Quantum information
  • Integrated circuits or semiconductors
  • Brain science
  • Genomics and biotechnology
  • Clinical medicine and health
  • Deep space, deep earth, deep sea, and polar research

China is also currently working on a project called “China Standards 2035,” which has the goal to increase the country’s future role in the standards-setting process for technology.

Will PIPL extend to the government?

PIPL does have a section that deals with how the Chinese citizens’ data is processed by state agencies, and in theory, they should follow similar rules to private companies. There is, however, some debate in the Chinese legal and academic communities over whether or not this will actually happen.

What’s noteworthy is that this push to reign in the power of tech giants in China has started a national debate over what the governments should and shouldn’t be allowed to do with citizen data.

PIPL gives Chinese citizens the right to give informed consent to their data being collected, but what will happen when this right interferes with police investigations, for instance?

The impact of PIPL has mostly been discussed in terms of how it will affect large tech companies like Tencent and Alibaba, but let’s not forget that Chinese state agencies also collect vast amounts of data and have virtually unrestricted access to Chinese citizens’ personal information.

It Began As an AI-Fueled Dungeon Game. It Got Much Darker

It Began As an AI-Fueled Dungeon Game. It Got Much Darker

OpenAI said the service would empower businesses and startups and granted Microsoft, a hefty backer of OpenAI, an exclusive license to the underlying algorithms. WIRED and some coders and AI researchers who tried the system showed it could also generate unsavory text, such as anti-Semitic comments, and extremist propaganda. OpenAI said it would carefully vet customers to weed out bad actors, and required most customers—but not Latitude—to use filters the AI provider created to block profanity, hate speech, or sexual content.

Out of the limelight, AI Dungeon provided relatively unconstrained access to OpenAI’s text-generation technology. In December 2019, the month the game launched using the earlier open-source version of OpenAI’s technology, it won 100,000 players. Some quickly discovered and came to cherish its fluency with sexual content. Others complained the AI would bring up sexual themes unbidden, for example when they attempted to travel by mounting a dragon and their adventure took an unforeseen turn.

Latitude cofounder Nick Walton acknowledged the problem on the game’s official Reddit community within days of launching the game. He said several players had sent him examples that left them “feeling deeply uncomfortable,” adding that the company was working on filtering technology. From the game’s early months players also noticed, and posted online to flag, that it would sometimes write children into sexual scenarios.

AI Dungeon’s official Reddit and Discord communities added dedicated channels to discuss adult content generated by the game. Latitude added an optional “safe mode” that filtered out suggestions from the AI featuring certain words. Like all automated filters, however, it was not perfect. And some players noticed the supposedly safe setting improved the text-generator’s erotic writing because it used more analogies and euphemisms. The company also added a premium subscription tier to generate revenue.

When AI Dungeon added OpenAI’s more powerful, commercial writing algorithms in July 2020, the writing got still more impressive. “The sheer jump in creativity and storytelling ability was heavenly,” says one veteran player. The system got noticeably more creative in its ability to explore sexually explicit themes, too, this person says. For a time last year players noticed Latitude experimenting with a filter that automatically replaced occurrences of the word “rape” with “respect” but the feature was dropped.

The veteran player was among the AI Dungeon aficionados who embraced the game as an AI-enhanced writing tool to explore adult themes, including in a dedicated writing group. Unwanted suggestions from the algorithm could be removed from a story to steer it in a different direction; the results weren’t posted publicly unless a person chose to share them.

Latitude declined to share figures on how many adventures contained sexual content. OpenAI’s website says AI Dungeon attracts more than 20,000 players each day.

An AI Dungeon player who posted last week about a security flaw that made every story generated in the game publicly accessible says he downloaded several hundred thousand adventures created during four days in April. He analyzed a sample of 188,000 of them, and found 31 percent contained words suggesting they were sexually explicit. That analysis and the security flaw, now fixed, added to anger from some players over Latitude’s new approach to moderating content.

Latitude now faces the challenge of winning back users’ trust while meeting OpenAI’s requirements for tighter control over its text generator. The startup now must use OpenAI’s filtering technology, an OpenAI spokesperson said.

How to responsibly deploy AI systems that have ingested large swaths of internet text, including some unsavory parts, has become a hot topic in AI research. Two prominent Google researchers were forced out of the company after managers objected to a paper arguing for caution with such technology.

The technology can be used in very constrained ways, such as in Google search where it helps parse the meaning of long queries. OpenAI helped AI Dungeon to launch an impressive, but fraught application that let people prompt the technology to unspool more or less whatever it could.

Author: Tom Simonite
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

RT’s Boom Bust takes a look at how G7 plans to tackle rising China… without upsetting Beijing

RT’s Boom Bust takes a look at how G7 plans to tackle rising China… without upsetting Beijing

As leaders from the world’s seven most industrialized nations gathered in London, the US has called on the G7 club to challenge the increasing power of China.

“What we are trying to do is to uphold the international rules-based order that our countries have invested so much in over so many decades,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

He added that neither the US nor its allies are trying to contain China or hold it down.

READ MORE:Tell the truth, America… the G7 meeting is all about trying to contain the rise of China

RT’s Boom Bust is joined by the program co-host Ben Swann to explore how the group of seven plans to deal with the rise and growth of China.

“Secretary Blinken is really trying to play both sides with this,” the investigative journalist said, stressing that the US is calling for a tougher stance towards Beijing.

“But at the same time, they don’t want to upset China,” he added, highlighting that none of the G7 nations were taking any steps to decouple their dependency on China.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Author: RT
This post originally appeared on RT Business News