Later On

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

Archive for January 14th, 2009

Guantánamo typical of a Bush operation

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It’s chaotic, disorganized, and not working. From the Washington Post‘s Peter Finn:

A former military prosecutor said in a declaration filed in federal court yesterday that the system of handling evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay is so chaotic that it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution.

Darrel Vandeveld, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, filed the declaration in support of a petition seeking the release of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who has been held at the military prison in Cuba for six years. Jawad was a juvenile when he was detained in Kabul in 2002 after a grenade attack that severely wounded two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter.

Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the “complete lack of organization” has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, “it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name.”

Vandeveld was assigned to the military prosecutor’s office at Guantanamo Bay in May 2007, shortly before Jawad was charged. Vandeveld, who as a civilian serves as a senior deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania, said he was shocked by the “state of disarray” as he began to gather material for Jawad’s case file.

He said the evidence was scattered throughout databases, in desk drawers, in vaguely labeled containers or “simply piled on the tops of desks” of departed prosecutors.

“I further discovered that most physical evidence that had been collected had either disappeared” or had been stored in unknown locations, he said. …

Continue reading to find pearls like this:

… In his declaration, Vandeveld said Afghan police had made Jawad place his thumbprint on a statement written in Farsi, a language that the defendant, who is functionally illiterate, does not speak. To extract an admission, and before he was turned over to U.S. forces, the Afghans allegedly threatened to kill Jawad and his family, Vandeveld said in the declaration.

Later, Jawad also made a statement to U.S. interrogators, which was recorded, Vandeveld said. But despite an extensive search, Vandeveld said, he was not able to obtain the videotape…

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 12:12 pm

Roasted broccoli with shrimp

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The Wednesday Chef has some good photos and also some pertinent observations on the best way to prepare this recipe:

Roasted Broccoli with Shrimp
Serves 4

2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
Lemon wedges, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl, combine shrimp, remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

2. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 10 minutes. Add shrimp to baking sheet and toss with broccoli. Roast, tossing once halfway through, until shrimp are just opaque and broccoli is tender and golden around edges, about 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges, or squeeze lemon juice all over shrimp and broccoli just before serving.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 11:43 am

Riding BART while black

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Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) seems to have a serious problem. From an email just received (thanks, Liz):

On New Year’s Eve, Oscar Grant was shot in the back execution-style by a transit police officer in Oakland, California. He was lying face-down on a subway platform, unarmed and posing no threat.1,2

Twelve days later—despite several videos showing what happened—the officer who killed Grant hasn’t been arrested, charged, or even questioned. He quit the force and has refused to speak. The District Attorney has done nothing.

It’s time to demand that California Attorney General Jerry Brown take over the case and arrest Grant’s killer, and to ask that the US Department of Justice launch an independent investigation into the conduct of the local authorities. Please join us and ask your friends and family to do the same.

Oscar Grant is the third man murdered by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) police in the past 17 years. All three victims were Black and none posed a serious threat. In each case, BART and county authorities have failed to hold the officers accountable.3

In the previous cases, BART’s internal investigations concluded that the officers felt threatened by the victims and were justified in pulling the trigger. It’s unbelievable given the circumstances of the killings:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 11:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Government

Internet predators: not a problem

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The Internet may not be such a dangerous place for children after all.

A task force created by 49 state attorneys general to look into sexual solicitation of children online has concluded that there is not a significant problem.

The findings ran counter to popular perceptions of online dangers as reinforced by depictions in the news media like NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series and are the latest study to suggest that concerns about the Internet and sex abuse against children are overblown. Ina an article last February in American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychological Association, researchers concluded that most allegatiosn about the Internet and sexual abuse were myths.

The Internet Safety Technical Task Force examined the extent of the threats children face on social networks like MySpace and Facebook, amid widespread fears that adults were using these popular Web sites to deceive and prey on children.

But the report cited research calling such fears a “moral panic,” and concluded that the problem of bullying among children, both online and offline, poses a far more serious challenge than the sexual solicitation of minors by adults.

“This shows that social networks are not these horribly bad neighborhoods on the Internet,” said John Cardillo, a member of the task force and chief executive of Sentinel Tech Holding, which maintains a sex offender database. “Social networks are very much like real-world communities that are comprised mostly of good people who are there for the right reasons.”

The report is to be released today. The 39-page document was the result of a year of meetings between dozens of academics, childhood safety experts and executives of 30 companies, including Yahoo, AOL, MySpace and Facebook.

The task force, led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, looked at…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 11:03 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Granola recipe

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The Wife is a big granola fan, and I thought this recipe might be of interest to others as well. (Am I supposed to call it “DIY Granola”?) The recipe comes from 5 Second Rule, and the post there explains some of the details—such as when to add pistachios. Here’s the ingredient list:

Makes 10 to 12 cups

4 cups rolled oats
3 cups unsweetened, natural coconut
2 teaspoons ground cardamon
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups shelled, unsalted pistachios
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup golden raisins

Clearly this is something you can tailor to your taste. See full recipe here. I would certainly add cinnamon (good for diabetics) and drop the coconut. Instead of agave nectar, I would probably use blackstrap molasses (calcium, potassium, iron). And so on.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 10:58 am

It was indeed torture, says Bush Administration official

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Of course, there’s a fairly large group on the conservative side who believe that torture is okay if done by the US. I agree with Leon Panetta: no torture, period. That should be the US position. For one thing, professional interrogators agree that torture is inefficient and ineffective, unless you’re going for a false confession (the use of torture in the Soviet Union and Inquisition).

At any rate, a Bush official says the US has definitely used torture:

The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a “life-threatening condition.”

“We tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani,” said Susan J. Crawford, in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. “His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that’s why I did not refer the case” for prosecution.

Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani’s health led to her conclusion. “The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge” to call it torture, she said.

Military prosecutors said in November that they would seek to refile charges against Qahtani, 30, based on subsequent interrogations that did not employ harsh techniques. But Crawford, who dismissed war crimes charges against him in May 2008, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 10:50 am

Posted in Daily life

More on knife sharpening

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I’ve updated my knife-sharpening post because I’ve been learning new things. Sharpening is a big world, and knives are only a part of it. Interesting stuff.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 10:46 am

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with

Source of the sharpening problem

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Above is a photo of the Chef’s Choice 110 knife sharpener—around $90 new. This is the devil that started dulling my knives instead of sharpening them—and the same for The Eldest and The Son, who have the same model. I called Chef’s Choice and learned the reason: over a few years—around 2 or 3, depending on how often you sharpen your knives, the diamond-coated abrasive pads wear out, and the sharpener becomes a dullener. You can, however, ship the unit back to Chef’s Choice, and for $30 (plus shipping, I imagine), they will refurbish it. It will then be good for 2 or 3 more years.

So for a total cost of around $50 (including shipping both ways and the refurbishing), you get it back almost new. Not a bargain, methinks. I would go with another type of sharpener or use a sharpening service. See this post.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 9:10 am

Posted in Daily life

Illegal hiring in the Bush DoJ

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It’s been evident for some time that under Bush the Department of Justice was undermined and redirected toward political aggrandizement—things like replacing insufficiently mindless US Attorneys with “loyal Bushies” (their term, not mine). And now the results of an investigation into hiring practices in the Civil Rights division finds illegal practices. The perpetrator won’t be prosecuted, of course: the illegal activity occurred in the past. </bitter> The story:

A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as “real Americans,” kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.

Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers “commies” and “pinkos” and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn’t be limited to hiring “politburo members” who belong to some “psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,” the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.

Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges. [Why not? Is it Be-Kind-To-Criminals Week in the DoJ? – LG]

The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.

It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and “improperly used political or ideological affiliations” in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy…

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 8:44 am

Tabac today

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Tabac shaving soap makes a terrific lather, today with the Emperor 3 Super. And the Lady Gillette is a very nice razor indeed: the long handle works well, and with a Swedish Gillette it gave a wonderfully smooth shave. Tabac as the aftershave was a nice finish. Now for coffee.

Written by Leisureguy

14 January 2009 at 7:30 am

Posted in Shaving

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