Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2010

Wow! Extremely cool piece of the future breaks into the present

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Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 4:08 pm

Powerful argument against Goldberg and his defenders (Fallows and Klein)

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Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Iran, Media

Probably more umbrella than I need

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More info here.

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13 August 2010 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s N-word rant

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Absolutely astonishing. Dr. Schlessinger is a sick woman.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Daily life, Media

Critical plant bank in danger

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Bob Grant writes at TheScientist.com:

Plant scientists around the world are warning that hundreds of years of accumulated agricultural heritage are in danger of being plowed under after a Russian court ruled today (August 11) that the land occupied by a world-renowned plant bank on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg may be transferred to the Russian Housing Development Foundation,which plans to build houses on the site.

The fate of the collection at the Pavlovsk Experimental Station,which includes more than 70 hectares planted with 5,500 different varieties of apples, pears, cherries, and numerous berry species — most of which occur nowhere else on Earth and were developed over hundreds of years by farmers in northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia — was decided in Russia’s Supreme Arbitration Court at 10:30 AM, Moscow time.

"It’s a bad day for biodiversity," said Cary Fowler,director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which has for months been trying to raise awareness of the dire situation at the decades-old collection. The collection of plants was started in 1926 by the father of seed banking, revered Russian geneticist Nikolai Vavilov."Unless somebody intervenes, we’re going to stand there at the gates and watch the bulldozers destroy thousands of varieties that are growing in a collection that dates back to 1926," Fowler told The Scientist.

The Scientist‘s emails to both the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and the housing development foundation were not answered before publication.

Sergei Alexanian, vice director for foreign relations at the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry,which maintains the collection at Pavlovsk, told The Scientist that the institute immediately appealed the decision, which buys about one month while the court addresses the appeal. In that time, researchers at the Vavilov Institute and around the world will appeal to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin — the only two people who have the authority to overturn the ruling — to save the collection. "It’s crazy to destroy the collection," Alexanian said. "This collection belonged not only to the institute and the Russian people, but also to the world community. That’s why we want to appeal to their reason."

"It’s a valuable and unique collection of strains, and its loss would be a serious blow to agriculture," agreed Peter Raven,director of the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Mike Ambrose, seed bank manager at John Innes Center in the UK, told The Scientist that the genetic diversity held in the Pavlovsk collection is irreplaceable. "These collections have survived World War II and very difficult times in the intervening years, and for them to be bulldozed down by a property developer would be a very sad fate, not just for Russia but for agriculture worldwide," said Ambrose, who works frequently with scientists at the Vavilov Institute.

Alexanian was not sure how much money is devoted to maintaining the collection, but did say . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:54 pm

GPS Tracking and a ‘Mosaic Theory’ of Government Searches

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Julian Sanchez posts at a Cato Institute blog:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation trumpets a surprising privacy win last week in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. In U.S. v. Maynard (PDF), the court held that the use of a GPS tracking device to monitor the public movements of a vehicle—something the Supreme Court had held not to constitute a Fourth Amendment search in U.S. v Knotts—could nevertheless become a search when conducted over an extended period.  The Court in Knotts had considered only tracking that encompassed a single journey on a particular day, reasoning that the target of surveillance could have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the fact of a trip that any member of the public might easily observe. But the Knotts Court explicitly reserved judgment on potential uses of the technology with broader scope, recognizing that “dragnet” tracking that subjected large numbers of people to “continuous 24-hour surveillance.” Here, the DC court determined that continuous tracking for a period of over a month did violate a reasonable expectation of privacy—and therefore constituted a Fourth Amendment search requiring a judicial warrant—because such intensive secretive tracking by means of public observation is so costly and risky that no  reasonable person expects to be subject to such comprehensive surveillance.

Perhaps ironically, the court’s logic here rests on the so-called “mosaic theory” of privacy, which the government has relied on when resisting Freedom of Information Act requests.  The theory holds that pieces of information that are not in themselves sensitive or potentially injurious to national security can nevertheless be withheld, because in combination (with each other or with other public facts) permit the inference of facts that are sensitive or secret.  The “mosaic,” in other words, may be far more than the sum of the individual tiles that constitute it. Leaving aside for the moment the validity of the government’s invocation of this idea in FOIA cases, there’s an obvious intuitive appeal to the idea, and indeed, we see that it fits our real world expectations about privacy much better than the cruder theory that assumes the sum of “public” facts must always be itself a public fact.

Consider an illustrative hypothetical.  Alice and Bob are having a romantic affair that, for whatever reason, they prefer to keep secret. One evening before a planned date, Bob stops by the corner pharmacy and—in full view of a shop full of strangers—buys some condoms.  He then drives to a restaurant where, again in full view of the other patrons, they have dinner together.  They later drive in separate cars back to Alice’s house, where the neighbors (if they care to take note) can observe from the presence of the car in the driveway that Alice has an evening guest for several hours. It being a weeknight, Bob then returns home, again by public roads. Now, the point of this little story is not, of course, that a judicial warrant should be required before an investigator can physically trail Bob or Alice for an evening.  It’s simply that in ordinary life, we often reasonably suppose the privacy or secrecy of certain facts—that Bob and Alice are having an affair—that could in principle be inferred from the combination of other facts that are (severally) clearly public, because it would be highly unusual for all of them to be observed by the same public.   Even more so when, as in Maynard, we’re talking not about the “public” events of a single evening, but . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:50 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Mexico rethinks drug strategy as death toll soars

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Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy:

The drug war in Mexico is at a crossroads. As the death toll climbs above 28,000, President Felipe Calderon confronts growing pressure to try a different strategy — perhaps radically different — to quell the violence unleashed by major drug syndicates.

Even an elder from his own party, former President Vicente Fox, is taking potshots at Calderon, telling him that his policy is seriously off-track.

Many Mexicans don’t know whether their country is winning or losing the war against drug traffickers, but they know they’re fatigued by the brutality that’s sweeping parts of their nation.

Calderon urged his countrymen this week not to gauge the drug war by the relentless rise of the death toll. In early April, newspaper tallies put the toll at around 18,000, but legislators then leaked a higher official estimate: 22,700. Earlier this month, the nation’s intelligence chief said that 28,000 people most likely had been killed since Calderon came to office in late 2006.

"The number of murders or the degree of violence isn’t necessarily the best indicator of progress or retreat, or if the war . . . is won or lost," the president told opposition party chiefs at a meeting called to pull the nation behind his counter-drug strategy. "It is a sign of the severity of the problem."

Calderon had called the party bosses — along with academics and civic leaders — into public sessions on how to improve security and get the upper hand against the drug gangs, several of which are engaged in bloody warfare over smuggling routes.

"What I ask, simply, is for clear ideas and precise proposals on how to improve this strategy," the president said at one session.

What Calderon, a bespectacled economist with a professorial manner, got instead was a barrage of criticism. The government should send soldiers back to their barracks, he was told, and do more to attack money-laundering and to protect judges. Several politicians, including Fox, suggested that Calderon consider legalizing narcotics.

The near-daily brainstorming sessions were interrupted when Calderon flew to Colombia to attend the swearing-in last Saturday of President Juan Manuel Santos, and that nation’s success in battling cocaine cartels has served as a reference point for the discussions.

So have several disclosures and news events that underscore the levels of corruption that are corroding law enforcement efforts. Among them:

  • Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said last Friday that narcotics cartels paid around $100 million a month in bribes to municipal police officers across Mexico, ensuring that their activities went undisturbed.
  • Some 250 federal police officers abducted a commander briefly last weekend in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, accusing him of being in cahoots with traffickers and forcing the police to extort citizens.

Calderon is seeking support for wholesale police reform in Mexico, where some 33,000 officers belong to a federal police force and another 430,000 belong to disparate state or municipal forces. He’s pointed to Colombia’s unified national police as an example of how to make headway against organized crime.

Calderon wants to abolish the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws

Daintiest runway trend from Paris: The couture folding fan

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The Wife loves a folding fan (and Paris, and couture), so she leapt on this article:

Forget Balenciaga’s "Giant City" and the other luxury purses that vie for the title of "It Bag" of the moment.

If two young Parisian fashionistas have their way, next season’s must-have accessory might just be a relic resurrected from a bygone age — the folding fan.

Eloise Gilles and Raphaelle de Panafieu left their jobs in fashion and invested their savings to rescue one of Paris’ last remaining fan makers, the long-dormant house of Duvelleroy. Their first collection — 12 exquisite models concocted by hand from traditional fabrics like silk and feathers and state-of-the-art materials like carbon fiber — is to make its retail debut later this month.

"Fans are not only elegant and feminine but they’re also super practical. Whenever I go out, to parties, to restaurants and especially to clubs, I always have mine," said Panafieu, a 28-year-old who says folding fans have been her trademark ever since her father brought her one from Asia when she was a kid.

Panafieu’s quirky accessory of choice became her job after she met Gilles a few years ago and the two decided to invest in a fan-making house. They discovered Duvelleroy, among the few remaining survivors of France’s world-famous fan-making industry, and pooled their savings to buy the house from owner Michel Maignan, a retired auctioneer.

Two years ago, the two quit their jobs — Panafieu’s in marketing at a chic Paris women’s clothing label and Gilles’ as a brand consultant for French luxury labels — to throw themselves into resurrecting the house.

Founded in 1827 . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

Putting innocent people in prison

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The police claim that they don’t really want to imprison innocent people, yet that continue to follow procedures that guarantee the conviction of at least a proportion of innocents. (This is beyond the police arresting people for, say, taking photos in a public place—i.e., just making up laws and locking up people who annoy you.)

Mark Kleiman:

The Harris County (Houston) District Attorney’s office has a unit devoted specifically to identifying innocent people in prison and letting them out. That leaves about 2900 D.A.’s offices that don’t.

One way innocent people get to prison is the “line-up” or “photo spread” in which a victim or other witness is asked to identify the perpetrator from a group of six people, or six photographs. That creates a strong impression that the perpetrator is somewhere in the group, and there’s overwhelming evidence that someone – whoever looks most like the actual perp – is likely to be selected. Once that happens, everything pushes the witness toward more and more certainty about the identification, no matter how spurious.

It turns out that there’s a different way to do the identification process: give the witness a set of photos, or a group of people, to look at one-by-one, asking in each case, “Is this the guy?” In experiments, this approach is less likely to lead to a positive identification, which is why police and prosecutors don’t like it. But the different between the two techniques consists entirely of false IDs. Yet such is the muscle of law enforcement in the political system that most states still allow, and most police departments still use, the “six-pack” process, with its predictably high false-positive rate.

So innocent people continue to lose large chunks of their lives to false verdicts based on eyewitness ID. How many? If the rate of false conviction were 3% – which I would regard as an insanely optimistic number – that would be 50,000 people doing hard time for stuff they didn’t do. It’s hard not to get angry.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:38 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Insect hotel

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This is very cool:

Insect hotel

Arup Associates has won a competition to design a hotel for insects. ‘Beyond the Hive’ was sponsored by British Land and the City of London to celebrate 2010 as the International year of Biodiversity.

Selected from five shortlisted hotels that were built and placed in parks around London, the jury included Paul Finch; Sarah Henshall; Adrian Penfold, Head of Planning & Environment, British Land; Peter Wynne Rees, the City Planning Officer; and architect Graham Stirk.

A Hotel for Insects
Insects prefer habitats that are essentially neglected. Different varieties of insect require different habitats and environmental conditions to survive, so the challenge of designing an Insect Hotel is to cater for as many of these conditions and contexts as possible. These habitats generally consist of the detritus of the natural and man made world comprising of organic and inorganic materials most of which can be procured from waste management or garden sources. The most important consideration is that the hotel will need to be buffered against temperature extremes with humidity maintained for certain species. Most simple insect hotels may be constructed in a very straightforward way from an assemblage of materials stacked together aided by an armature structure, that contains the disparate materials. Stacked timber palettes containing a variety of deadfall and inorganic waste is an example of this approach. As the objective of the City of London Corporation’s Brief suggests that the hotel is also ‘visually engaging and a well crafted object’ and ‘enhances its setting and complementing the garden’ as well as having utility and corresponding to a defined volume, a more sophisticated version suitable for the vicissitudes of a London Park and the more critical eye of the human inhabitants seems to be what is asked for.

The Hotel Guest’s Requirements
Stag Beetles
: Need rotting logs for their larvae to eat and grow in. The design must ensure that these do not dry out, but neither must they be allowed to get too wet. This habitat should be located at ground level.

Solitary bees: Above the stag beetle compartments and consisting of stacked logs of varying sizes and cut bamboo, with ends facing out. Compacted sand/dirt mixed with broken terracotta is also useful.

Butterflies and Moths: A series of vertical slots should be used as an entrance to a dry wooden space that is filled with vertical planes of bark.

Spiders, Lacewings and Ladybirds: A combination of materials can be used here, including discarded shredded shoes; a variety of materials to produce various grades of space, including rolled up corrugated cardboard within plastic tubes.

Continue reading to see diagrammed structure.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Daily life

Caribbean pepper sauce

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1 qt red Fresno peppers, stems removed
6 habanero peppers, stems removed
3 dried ancho peppers, stems removed
8 dried chipotle peppers, stems removed
juice of 10 limes, then add enough dark (Jamaican) rum to barely cover peppers
1/4 cup sea salt (not iodized)

Blend, bring to boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes, remove from heat and let cool 20 minutes, then bottle.

I’m very interested to try this batch.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 12:09 pm

The prototype and Floris JF

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The prototype shaving brush was more pleasant to use than the aluminum production version: more heft, and the silvertip knot seemed slightly larger. I got a very fine lather—and loads of it—and did a flawless three-pass shave with the Progress and a Swedish Gillette blade. A splash of Floïd, and I’m off to buy more Fresno peppers for another batch of pepper sauce: must strike while the iron is hot (or, more appropriately perhaps, make hay while the sun shines).

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2010 at 9:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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