Later On

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

Archive for September 6th, 2007

Fighting crime & terrorists

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Do you feel safer now?

Will Chandler said he knows he should not have left campus when he and two friends left Wheeler High School for lunch a week ago.

“I was like, ‘Alright, I’m going to get in trouble.’ I didn’t even know the knife was in there. I completely forgot about it and then they pulled it out,” said Chandler.A school officer found a Swiss Army knife in Chandler’s car’s console. Under the school’s zero tolerance policy it was an automatic suspension for Chandler.The next day, the Chandlers found out Will had also been charged with a felony.“We found out that my son, there’s a felony warrant out for him. It just seems like a nightmare. We’re still in shock,” said Sharon Chandler.

Will Chandler was booked into the Cobb County Jail and his mother started a quest to find answers.“When the principal said to me, ‘This could kill someone,’ I said to him, ‘So could a pencil.’ My son did not have this on his physical body, did not have it on him, it was not in his backpack, it was not in his locker. It was in the console of the car,” said Sharon.The Chandlers said Will has a clean record and never would have taken the utility knife into the school, much less hurt anybody.

The Chandlers said they understood Will’s suspension for 10 days, but they believe a felony charge against the high school senior is over the top.“This messes your life up, it follows you around for the rest of your life. When you fill out a college application, they ask you, ‘Have you ever been charged with a felony?’ When you go to work, they ask you if you’ve been charged with a felony and for right now, I have to mark, “Yes,” because of this,” said Will.“And now we are taking away from that and focusing on this because this cannot be on his record. If this was on his record the choice of colleges he can go to will be nil,” said Sharon.

A Cobb School District spokesperson said their policy states a knife with a blade that’s more than 2 inches — the Swiss Army knife is 3 inches — results in an automatic suspension and an automatic criminal charge.The Chandlers said they will fight it. Will Chandler wants to be a dentist and his parents said they aren’t sure that can happen with a charge on his record.

Some reports said that he also was carrying a 6-oz. plastic bottle of water, double the legal limit.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Daily life

Retraction doesn’t change belief

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Interesting post from Mind Hacks:

The Washington Post has a timely article about the psychology of believing news reports, even when they’ve been retracted – suggesting that if false information is presented early, it is more likely to be believed, while subsequent attempts to correct the information may, in fact, strengthen the false impression.

The article starts with results from a study [pdf] by psychologist Norbert Schwarz who looked at the effect of a government flier that attempted to correct myths about the flu vaccine by marking them ‘true’ or ‘false’.

Unfortunately, the flier actually boosted people’s belief in the false information, probably because we tend to think information is more likely to be true the more we hear it.

Negating a statement seems just to emphasise the initial point. The additional correction seems to get lost amid the noise.

One particularly pertinent study [pdf] not mentioned in the article, looked at the effect of retractions of false news reports made during the 2003 Iraq War on American, German and Australian participants.

For example, claims that Iraqi forces executed coalition prisoners of war after they surrendered were retracted the day after the claims were made.

The study found that the American participants’ belief in the truth of an initial news report was not affected by knowledge of its subsequent retraction.

In contrast, knowing about a retraction was likely to significantly reduce belief in the initial report for Germans and Australians.

The researchers note that people are more likely to discount information if they are suspicious of the motives behind its dissemination.

The Americans rated themselves as more likely to agree with the official line that the war was to ‘destroy weapons of mass destruction’, whereas the Australian and German participants rated this as far less convincing.

This suggests that there may have been an element of ‘motivated reasoning’ in evaluating news reports.

Research has shown that this only occurs when there’s sufficient information available to create a justification for the decision, even when the information is irrelevant to the main issue.

There’s a wonderful example of this explained here, in relation to men’s judgements about the safety of sex with HIV+ women of varying degrees of attractiveness.

So, if you want your propaganda to be effective get it in early, repeat it, give people reasons to be believe it (however irrelevant), and make yourself seem trustworthy.

As I’m sure these principles are already widely known among government and commercial PR departments, bear them in mind when evaluating public information.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Media, Science

B-52 with nuclear weapons

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You may have seen that a B-52 with nuclear weapons flew from Minot ND to Barksdale LA. The report says that this was an accident:

The US military said on Wednesday it was investigating an alarming security lapse when a B-52 bomber flew the length of the country last week loaded with six nuclear-armed cruise missiles.

The blunder was reported to President George W. Bush after the nuclear warheads were discovered when the aircraft landed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, a military official said on condition of anonymity.

An air force official, who also asked to remain unnamed, said the B-52, which originated at Minot Air Base in North Dakota, had six cruise missiles with nuclear warheads loaded on pylons under its wings.

The US Air Force has relieved the munition squadron commander at Minot Air Base in North Dakota of his duties, and launched an investigation into the August 30 incident, a Pentagon spokesman said.

…  The Pentagon would not provide details, citing secrecy rules, but an expert said the incident was unprecedented, and pointed to a disturbing lapse in the air force’s command and control system.

“It seems so fantastic that so many points, checks can dysfunction,” said Hans Kristensen, an expert on US nuclear forces.

“We have so many points and checks specifically so we don’t have these kinds of incidents,” he said.

A more ominous take on the incident:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 12:35 pm

Interesting excerpt re: Bush

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Slate has some interesting excerpts from Draper’s new book on Bush. Their introduction:

This week, Slate is publishing three exclusive excerpts from Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush by Robert Draper. In preparing this chronological narrative of the Bush presidency, Draper has had unprecedented journalistic access to the Bush White House, including six interviews with the president in late 2006 and 2007. Today’s selection is drawn from the first of those interviews.

The first excerpt is here.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 11:11 am

Global warming affecting national parks

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Not just national parks, of course: it’s affecting farmlands, cities, the coastlines, and the globe. But the story in today’s paper is the GAO report of the effects on the national parks:

The federal government needs to do a better job addressing how climate change is transforming the hundreds of millions of acres under its watch, according to a Government Accountability Office report to be released today.

The 184-page report, which Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) requested in 2004, highlights the extent to which global warming is already affecting the nation’s parks, forests, marine sanctuaries and monuments.

Looking at agencies ranging from the U.S. Forest Service to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, GAO officials gathered reports of dramatic changes across the nearly 30 percent of U.S. land that lies under federal control. Since 1850, the glaciers in Glacier National Park have declined from 150 to 26; climate-triggered coral bleaching in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is eroding the area’s tourist appeal.

For the most part, the men and women overseeing these 600 million acres of land and 150,000 square miles of protected waters have little direction on how to respond to these shifts, according to the report. It states that these managers “have limited guidance about whether or how to address climate change and therefore, are uncertain about what action, if any, they should take. . . . Without such guidance, their ability to address climate change and effectively manage resources is constrained.”

In addition to NOAA and the Forest Service, the GAO examined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 10:56 am

US troop deaths in Iraq

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The average troops deaths per month, January through August, in 2006 was 58. In 2007 it’s either 92 or 95, depending on the final count from August. Here’s the graph:

GI Deaths in Iraq

This is from a post that makes a very good point:

Paraphrasing Robert Lewis Stevenson, a true statement does not just present true facts; a true statement is one that conveys a true impression. “July GI fatalities are the lowest for the year” is a true fact. On the other hand, “GI fatalities are higher every month so far this year compared with last”, is also a true fact. It’s the latter, however, not the former, that conveys a true impression.

Given this chart, and the report from the LA Times that the civilian casualties in Iraq have also increased, it’s hard to see that the Surge has worked. As you recall, early in the year the GOP said that September would be decision time. It’s September, so both parties are on the record as agreeing that we now need to decide. Recall this:

On Jan. 23, 2007, just weeks after President Bush announced his escalation plan in Iraq, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said on CNN that we would know if the troop increase would “work” within “60 to 90 days“:

Q: How long can you and your membership give the president and give the Iraqi military, before you say, you know what, you’re not doing your job?

BOEHNER: I think it will be rather clear in the next 60 to 90 days as to whether this plan is going to work. And, again, that’s why we need to have close oversight, so that we just don’t look up 60 or 90 days from now and realize that — that this plan is not working. We need to know, as we — as we’re — we move through these benchmarks, that the Iraqis are doing what they have to do.

That time has passed—more than passed. We have an independent report from the GAO on the progress in meeting the Benchmarks that the president set: almost no progress. Congress must now decide.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 10:53 am

Posted in Congress, Iraq War

Designing your life

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Zen Habits has an interesting post this morning on designing your life—that is, giving conscious thought and planning to the things and activities you’d like to bring into your life. The post describes one process that can be used.

I think it’s a good idea to think consciously about how you are spending your life and how you’d like to spend it. OTOH, research has shown that people are terribly bad predictors of what in fact will make themselves happy. (See Daniel Gilbert’s interesting and readable book, Stumbling on Happiness for more on this.) This is not to say that consciously thinking about your life is a bad idea, but rather that one should hold lightly to those goals and remain aware of his or her life and state of mind. Be open to serendipity, but do not depend on it. If you achieve a goal (an acquisition or an activity) and find it unsatisfying, don’t cling to it hopelessly, but move on.

In other words, designing one’s life is not, I think, a process that can be completed—it’s on-going, and a daily awareness is an important part of it. Living a life that allows no time for reflection, a life that consists almost totally of distractions, is dangerous: you may well wake up one day wondering where you life has gone, why you are where you are, and what happened to happiness.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 10:35 am

Bento boxes

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I love the bento box. Slashfood this morning has a couple of good links:

Laptop Lunches makes a really cool bento-style lunch boxes with the dimensions of American food in mind (i.e. they are designed to hold a sandwich, something that other bento boxes don’t do as well). Their website also has a page of helpful lunch suggestions.

Lunch in a Box, the very cool website on which new, gorgeous pictures of creatively made bento box lunches are posted nearly every day, has an Amazon store on which you can buy many of the cute containers she uses to build her toddler’s lunch.

And I earlier blogged several good bento links, including one to a long list of bento links.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 10:05 am

Posted in Daily life, Food

The Wife will laugh

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From the reader in the Netherlands, this story:

Generations have praised the wisdom of getting up early in the morning, but a Japanese study says early-risers are actually at a higher risk of developing heart problems.

The study, conducted by researchers from several universities and hospitals in the western Japanese city of Kyoto, revealed a link between wake-up times and a person’s cardiovascular condition.

“Rising early to go to work or exercise might not be beneficial to health, but rather a risk for vascular diseases,” said an abstract of the study.

The study, covering 3,017 healthy adults aged between 23 through 90, found that early risers had a greater risk of heart conditions including hypertension and of having strokes.

However, the study also noted that early risers were usually older.

The study is being presented this week at the World Congress of the World Federation of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine Societies, being held in Cairns, Australia.

A separate study released in June by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that chronic sleep deprivation adds stress to the heart, putting a person at greater risk of cardiovascular disease and death.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 9:43 am

Posted in Daily life, Health, Medical

Good links re: global warming

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Just to provide some reference material (which will now also go into the blogroll):

New Scientist has a list of links to various articles that are relevant to the discussion.

Included among the links is a link to the site “Common Arguments by Skeptics“, which includes responses to things like these:

  1. “The scientific consensus was wrong about flat earth so how can we trust them now?”
  2. “We can’t predict the weather, so how can we predict the climate?”
  3. “There are scientists that think climate change is not real!”
  4. “The clouds will save us from global warming.”
  5. “Ha! Look at 2006! Where are the hurricanes!??!!”
  6. “Carbon trading is worthless.  Kyotto is a scam.  It wouldn’t do anything anyway.”
  7. “Scientists are creating a scare to get grant money.”
  8. “The Greenland Ice is expanding!”
  9. “The Hockey Stick is broken.  Michael Mann refuses to release his code & data.”
  10. “Atmospheric CO2 levels could NOT have changed global temperatures if the temperature changes occured FIRST”
  11. “Climate models don’t work.  They don’t even ‘predict’ the past.”
  12. “The climate scientists want to make us poor peasants.”
  13. “The warming is natural, the sun & cosmic rays that are heating the earth.”
  14. ‘The CO2 readings are wrong and the correct data are being suppressed.’ (Coming Soon)
  15. “James Hansen is a bought-by-Kerry comunist and his models were fabricated to promote his statist schemes.”
  16. “The ice core records are unreliable.” (Coming Soon)
  17. “The warming is all from the urban heat island effect.”
  18. “The CO2 will fertilize the plants and increase food production.”

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 8:41 am

Posted in Global warming

An extremely serious charge

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This is not (IMHO) a partisan matter. If a president takes the nation to war based on statements that he knows to be false—a war that costs thousands of American lives, and tens of thousands of civilian lives, not to mention a half-trillion dollars so far—it calls for impeachment, it seems to me. Lyndon Johnson was guilty of a version of this, in the use of the Tonkin Bay incident, and he has rightly been condemned, though the facts emerged after he left the presidency. But the following story raises the issue for a sitting president. This is a matter much more serious than a married man’s perjury about an extramartial sexual liaison—it’s not just at another level, it is several levels removed: lives were lost, and lives were ruined. Tens of thousands of lives, more probably hundreds of thousands. And it’s not the GOP that’s at fault. It’s the president. has the exclusive on this. Their article begins:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam’s inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

On April 23, 2006, CBS’s “60 Minutes” interviewed Tyler Drumheller, the former CIA chief of clandestine operations for Europe, who disclosed that the agency had received documentary intelligence from Naji Sabri, Saddam’s foreign minister, that Saddam did not have WMD. “We continued to validate him the whole way through,” said Drumheller. “The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy, to justify the policy.”

Now two former senior CIA officers have confirmed Drumheller’s account to me and provided the background to the story of how the information that might have stopped the invasion of Iraq was twisted in order to justify it. They described what Tenet said to Bush about the lack of WMD, and how Bush responded, and noted that Tenet never shared Sabri’s intelligence with then Secretary of State Colin Powell. According to the former officers, the intelligence was also never shared with the senior military planning the invasion, which required U.S. soldiers to receive medical shots against the ill effects of WMD and to wear protective uniforms in the desert.

Instead, said the former officials, the information was distorted in a report written to fit the preconception that Saddam did have WMD programs. That false and restructured report was passed to Richard Dearlove, chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), who briefed Prime Minister Tony Blair on it as validation of the cause for war.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 8:09 am

And what does the Truth-o-Meter tell us today?

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I like to start each morning with a look at the Truth-o-Meter. It’s a good habit: bookmark that link (or click over in the blogroll at the right, under “Election”) and check it often. If people start checking the truth of what politicians say, maybe more frequently they’ll tell the truth.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 7:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Shea and Weishi

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I’m starting to work through my most recent acquisitions. The shaving soap this morning was Institut Karité Shave Soap (scroll to bottom), 25% shea butter.  I used my new Simpsons Harvard 1 Best Badger brush, and immediately got a fine lather. The brush is small, but still holds enough lather for 3 passes. It generally goes without saying, but to make it explicit, I (as always) called on MR GLO for the initial beard wash.

The razor was the Weishi polished chrome and satin gold, which I loaded with a new Astra Superior Platinum blade.

It’s a good shave. The Weishi is a very nice razor, sturdy and well-made. It is a mild razor, very similar (for me) to the 40’s Gillette Super Speed, which makes it a good razor for a newbie. I like a slightly more aggressive razor, but for all that, I did get a good shave.

The aftershave was Geo.

Written by Leisureguy

6 September 2007 at 7:38 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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