Later On

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

Archive for August 14th, 2010

Honeybee Spa has its own site

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At last: http://www.honeybeesoaps.net/

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 2:58 pm

Police abuse of power

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The fight against police abusing their power will not end: human frailty means that some members of the police force are drawn to that occupation for the wrong reasons, and weeding out those offenders is just like weeding a garden: a never-ending task. It’s an easier task if police departments themselves recognize the danger and the need for transparency and openness, but (as you can see with the police campaign against being recorded while they are serving the public) police departments often resist—and, one suspects, for reasons like those in this NY Times report by Martin Fackler:

On a December morning in 1991, Toshikazu Sugaya’s quiet, anonymous existence in this sleepy city north of Tokyo ended abruptly with a knock on his door.

It was the police. They wanted to question Mr. Sugaya, then a 45-year-old divorced school bus driver with no friends, in connection with the grisly murder in 1990 of a 4-year-old girl. After 13 hours of interrogation, during which Mr. Sugaya says the police kicked his shins and shouted at him, he tearfully admitted to that murder and to killing two other girls. He was convicted of one murder and sentenced to life in prison.

But last year, after prosecutors admitted that his confession was a fabrication made under duress and that a DNA test used as evidence had been wrong, Mr. Sugaya was released. A court later acquitted him.

The disclosure that Mr. Sugaya had been wrongfully imprisoned for more than 17 years shocked Japan even more than his conviction as a serial killer had. His release drew a barrage of news media coverage, shaking the public’s faith in the police and the courts at a time when Japan’s prolonged economic decline has created growing doubts about Japan’s national institutions in general.

Mr. Sugaya, now 63, has become a national figure, and perhaps the country’s most vocal critic of forced confessions — a recurring problem here. He has written or co-written three books, including one titled “Falsely Convicted,” and tours the country giving talks about his experience.

“I tell people not to believe the police,” said Mr. Sugaya, a small, slightly built man whose face seems almost hidden behind a large pair of wire-rim glasses. “Look what they did to me.”

Indeed, with slumped shoulders and an almost cowering demeanor that brings to mind a frightened animal caught in car headlights, Mr. Sugaya seems as unlikely a crusader against the abuse of power as he did a serial killer. But he can be disarmingly open, and his voice exudes a quiet confidence that he says he acquired in prison, where he learned to fend for himself.

During those years, he said, he met other convicts who told him they had been convicted because of false confessions. He said a desire to help them and others is one reason he has embraced his newfound celebrity, though he remains visibly uncomfortable with all the attention.

“I want to go back to my quiet life of before,” Mr. Sugaya said. “But when I think that others have suffered the same treatment as me, I want to work to help them.”

Before his ordeal, Mr. Sugaya described himself as …

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Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:39 am

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Judges Reject Interrogation Evidence in Gitmo Cases

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Chisun Lee at ProPublica:

The government’s case for keeping the Guantánamo Bay prisoner locked away seemed airtight. He had confessed to overseeing the distribution of supplies to al-Qaida fighters battling U.S. forces in Afghanistan, even describing the routes where pack mules hauled the packages.

But a federal judge rejected Fouad Mahmoud Al Rabiah’s confessions, concluding that he had concocted them under intense coercion. Even statements that the government insisted Al Rabiah had made under noncoercive, or "clean," questioning were tainted, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled, and she ordered that Al Rabiah be released.

The government has lost eight of 15 cases in which Guantánamo inmates have said they or witnesses against them were forcibly interrogated, according to ProPublica’s review of 31 published decisions that resolve lawsuits filed by 52 captives who said they’ve been wrongfully detained. Because some of the judges’ opinions are heavily redacted, it’s impossible to be sure there aren’t more cases in which the government offered interrogation evidence collected under questionable circumstances. More than 50 such lawsuits are still pending, two years after the U.S. Supreme Court gave Guantánamo inmates the green light to challenge their detention in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Judges rejected government evidence because of interrogation tactics ranging from verbal threats to physical abuse they called torture. Even in the seven cases the government won, the judges didn’t endorse aggressive methods. In six, they decided the detainees’ stories of abuse simply weren’t credible or were irrelevant to the outcome. In one, the prisoner had repeated self-incriminating statements in military hearings, which the judge viewed as less intimidating than the interrogations he found unacceptable.

The 15 decisions offer the most detailed accounting to date of how information obtained from the Guantánamo inmates through controversial tactics is standing up in court. They come in cases initiated by detainees seeking release via a writ of habeas corpus, not cherry-picked by prosecutors. Criminal law experts say the judges’ opinions help explain why the government has decided not to pursue criminal convictions against some detainees. Such evidence would pose even greater problems in criminal trials, for which requirements of proof are more demanding.

The Obama administration has already said that at least 48 of the remaining 176 prisoners at Guantánamo will be held indefinitely because they’re too dangerous to release but can’t be prosecuted successfully in military or civilian court. They’ve said that coercion-tainted evidence is one obstacle.

In most of the cases the government lost, the judges rejected …

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Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:22 am

World population by longitude; by latitude

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Very cool:

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:17 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Big automobile weekend here

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Lots of fine cars, but also lots and lots of people. I avoid crowds, so I’m having a quiet, gentle weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:10 am

Posted in Daily life

Punctuation Gone "Wild"

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Good review:

The Book of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks

by Bethany Keeley

A review by Megan Zabel

You’ve seen them on billboards, church marquees, and bathroom stalls: a pair of renegade quotation marks that ultimately results in an unfortunate, unintentional innuendo. You might think that a book comprised solely of photos of publicly displayed punctuation gaffes, accompanied by witty commentary, might get old after awhile. Well, you would be wrong.

The Book of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks, based on the popular blog created by Bethany Keeley, features reader-contributed photos of these superfluous punctuation faux pas. The book’s organized into categories like "At Work," "Social Graces," and "In the Bathroom," and Keeley provides funny commentary without being overly snarky. Even though the book repeats a different shade of the same joke over and over, the variations manage to seem wholly original when applied to different contexts. What self-respecting consumer of words could help from giggling after seeing a billboard that reads:

"Jesus" is Coming

Or, what about a customer feedback box from a national restaurant chain (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell) with a sign proclaiming:

"We Care." Please Let Us Know How You Feel

English is complex — so what’s the big deal if these avant-garde painters of language take the laws of grammar into their own hands and use the world’s billboards, Post-it Notes, and sandwich boards as their canvases?

This is the big deal: Rules are rules, folks. Just like stop signs, speed limits, and laws that prohibit you from marrying your cousins, the regulations placed on the use of punctuation were created to benefit society as a whole. They exist so you don’t unwittingly make fun of your own products, accidentally give the impression you’re not being honest, or unintentionally dispute the existence of "the Lord." (See what I did there?)

Some might argue that only privileged people with soft hands have the time or energy to poke fun at the misuse of punctuation. Perhaps these bold folks going hog-wild with the quotation marks simply have more pressing things to worry about. Maybe so. They’re trying to get people to buy their "soup," attend their "church," or simply just "flush" the toilet. They want emphasis and don’t care how they go about achieving it.

Sorry, you syntax rebels, I’m taking the hardliner approach. We’ve got punctuation for a reason, and it’s to fine-tune the sentiment behind our communication. Anyone with the wherewithal to own a business, buy billboard space, or design a product label should know better. Or use a proofreader. Google it. Something! If you break the rules, prepare to pay the price. (Which is being publicly shamed in this book.)

With that said, Keeley is fairly gentle. She focuses more energy poking fun at the absurdity of the unintended implications and less calling out the language skills of the perpetrators. Read it and chuckle with a good conscience, and think: Oh, that zany language of ours. Always up to "something."

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:09 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Education

The good Obama speaks out

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He waited, but when he spoke, he did a fine job. Greenwald has high praise, worth clicking the link. He added this update later:

To anyone wanting to quibble with what was done here — the timing, the wording, etc. — I’ll just pose this question:  when is the last time a President voluntarily entered an inflammatory public controversy by taking a position opposed by 70% of the public?

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:05 am

The Great Lie

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A poem worth reading:

The Great Lie

by Tim Lewis

The first part of the Great Lie
Is to deny
That slavery was savage, barbaric—
Instead, bleating and placating
With soft metaphor and subtle explication
That so many owners were good and kind,
And most slaves redeemably well-treated,
Never whipped, never maimed,
Never shipped into coffle lines,
Iron masks or necklaces of horns,
But lofted with warmed clothes, adorned quarters,
And a living comfortable and soft

The second part of the Great Lie
Is to …

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Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 9:01 am

Posted in Daily life

3 Claveles and Floris JF

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My Tres Claveles horsehair brush did a terrific job today—I’m learning how to use it and/or it is breaking in nicely. Three passes with loads of lather. OTOH, the Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade in my Gillette English Aristocrat was on its very last legs, so it’s not exactly a BBS shave—but it’s plenty good enough for Saturday. A splash of Alt Innsbruck and we’re off and doing.

Written by Leisureguy

14 August 2010 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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