Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 17th, 2006

What Bush is busy doing

leave a comment »

Here’s the story of a detainee:

One night in mid-April, the steel door clanked shut on detainee No. 200343 at Camp Cropper, the United States military’s maximum-security detention site in Baghdad.

American guards arrived at the man’s cell periodically over the next several days, shackled his hands and feet, blindfolded him and took him to a padded room for interrogation, the detainee said. After an hour or two, he was returned to his cell, fatigued but unable to sleep.

The fluorescent lights in his cell were never turned off, he said. At most hours, heavy metal or country music blared in the corridor. He said he was rousted at random times without explanation and made to stand in his cell. Even lying down, he said, he was kept from covering his face to block out the light, noise and cold. And when he was released after 97 days he was exhausted, depressed and scared.

Detainee 200343 was among thousands of people who have been held and released by the American military in Iraq, and his account of his ordeal has provided one of the few detailed views of the Pentagon’s detention operations since the abuse scandals at Abu Ghraib. Yet in many respects his case is unusual.

The detainee was Donald Vance, a 29-year-old Navy veteran from Chicago who went to Iraq as a security contractor. He wound up as a whistle-blower, passing information to the F.B.I. about suspicious activities at the Iraqi security firm where he worked, including what he said was possible illegal weapons trading.

But when American soldiers raided the company at his urging, Mr. Vance and another American who worked there were detained as suspects by the military, which was unaware that Mr. Vance was an informer, according to officials and military documents.

At Camp Cropper, he took notes on his imprisonment and smuggled them out in a Bible.

“Sick, very. Vomited,” he wrote July 3. The next day: “Told no more phone calls til leave.”

Nathan Ertel, the American held with Mr. Vance, brought away military records that shed further light on the detention camp and its secretive tribunals. Those records include a legal memorandum explicitly denying detainees the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether they should be released or held indefinitely, perhaps for prosecution.

The story told through those records and interviews illuminates the haphazard system of detention and prosecution that has evolved in Iraq, where detainees are often held for long periods without charges or legal representation, and where the authorities struggle to sort through the endless stream of detainees to identify those who pose real threats.

“Even Saddam Hussein had more legal counsel than I ever had,” said Mr. Vance, who said he planned to sue the former defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, on grounds that his constitutional rights had been violated. “While we were detained, we wrote a letter to the camp commandant stating that the same democratic ideals we are trying to instill in the fledgling democratic country of Iraq, from simple due process to the Magna Carta, we are absolutely, positively refusing to follow ourselves.”

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s detention operations in Iraq, First Lt. Lea Ann Fracasso, said in written answers to questions that the men had been “treated fair and humanely,” and that there was no record of either man complaining about their treatment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 7:45 pm

Fun with water and cornstarch

leave a comment »

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Science, Video

Can’t be too careful with them scientists

leave a comment »

From the Washington Post last week, evidence that the Bush Administration’s fight against facts—aka “denial”—is still underway.

The Bush administration is clamping down on scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest agency subjected to controls on research that might go against official policy.

New rules require screening of all facts and interpretations by agency scientists who study everything from caribou mating to global warming. The rules apply to all scientific papers and other public documents, even minor reports or prepared talks, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Top officials at the Interior Department’s scientific arm say the rules only standardize what scientists must do to ensure the quality of their work and give a heads-up to the agency’s public relations staff.

“This is not about stifling or suppressing our science, or politicizing our science in any way,” Barbara Wainman, the agency’s director of communications, said Wednesday. “I don’t have approval authority. What it was designed to do is to improve our product flow.”

Some agency scientists, who until now have felt free from any political interference, worry that the objectivity of their work could be compromised.

“I feel as though we’ve got someone looking over our shoulder at every damn thing we do. And to me that’s a very scary thing. I worry that it borders on censorship,” said Jim Estes, an internationally recognized marine biologist in the USGS field station at Santa Cruz, Calif.

“The explanation was that this was intended to ensure the highest possible quality research,” said Estes, a researcher at the agency for more than 30 years. “But to me it feels like they’re doing this to keep us under their thumbs. It seems like they’re afraid of science. Our findings could be embarrassing to the administration.”

The new requirements state that the USGS’s communications office must be “alerted about information products containing high-visibility topics or topics of a policy-sensitive nature.”

The agency’s director, Mark Myers, and its communications office also must be told — prior to any submission for publication — “of findings or data that may be especially newsworthy, have an impact on government policy, or contradict previous public understanding to ensure that proper officials are notified and that communication strategies are developed.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 3:13 pm

What Bush might do were he smart and not so pig-stubborn

leave a comment »

A good idea for President Bush, via Alert Reader.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 10:17 am

Beautiful technology

leave a comment »

 Bug

The beautiful machine above is a “bug”: a device that a telegrapher uses to send Morse code and that automatically makes a series of dots or a series of dashes depending on which paddle is pressed. The operator simply interrupts the series when the right number has been sent and pauses between letters. A “key,” OTOH, requires the operator to make dots and dashes by hand; a “paddle” makes automatic dots but requires the operator to make the dashes. Read more here and here.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 10:05 am

Posted in Technology

Compare maps

leave a comment »

Via Lifehacker, Flash Earth allows you to compare different maps of the same area. I just checked out Monterey and environs. Fascinating.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 9:33 am

Posted in Software, Technology

Forgive for yourself

leave a comment »

Given the season, this post of 9 steps to forgiveness might be useful:

1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK. Then, tell a trusted couple of people about your experience.

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.

3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”

4. Get the right perspective on what is happening. Recognize that your primary distress is coming from the hurt feelings, thoughts and physical upset you are suffering now, not what offended you or hurt you two minutes — or ten years — ago. Forgiveness helps to heal those hurt feelings.

5. At the moment you feel upset practice a simple stress management technique to soothe your body’s flight-or-fight response.

6. Give up expecting things from other people, or your life, that they do not choose to give you. Recognize the “unenforceable rules” you have for your health or how you or other people must behave. Remind yourself that you can hope for health, love, peace and prosperity and work hard to get them.

7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you. Instead of mentally replaying your hurt seek out new ways to get what you want.

8. Remember that a life well lived is your best revenge. Instead of focusing on your wounded feelings, and thereby giving the person who caused you pain power over you, learn to look for the love, beauty and kindness around you. Forgiveness is about personal power.

9. Amend your grievance story to remind you of the heroic choice to forgive.

The practice of forgiveness has been shown to reduce anger, hurt depression and stress and leads to greater feelings of hope, peace, compassion and self confidence. Practicing forgiveness leads to healthy relationships as well as physical health. It also influences our attitude which opens the heart to kindness, beauty, and love.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 9:27 am

What cheese course will you use for Xmas dinner?

leave a comment »

I confess that I hadn’t thought about a cheese course for Christmas dinner, but I know my readers are usually well ahead of me. But reading this post today, and following the link to Cheese Course 101 made me realize that I need to get with it and go cheese shopping with The Wife.

I was going to excerpt some of the good bits of Cheese Course 101 but as I started highlighting, I realized that I was highlighting the whole thing, so you should just go and read it.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 9:13 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

Bathsheba Sculpture

leave a comment »

Quintino

Very interesting sculptures, mathematical in aspect. The process used to create them is interesting in itself. You can buy the sculptures from the site. Worth looking through.

Written by Leisureguy

17 December 2006 at 8:54 am

Posted in Art, Technology

%d bloggers like this: