Later On

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

Archive for July 13th, 2012

Lifehacker identifies their favorite iPad apps

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Of course, iPad owners probably already have their own favorite apps, but take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2012 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Software, Techie toys

The Best Reporting on Detention and Rendition Under Obama

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Excellent round-up by Cora Currier and Shevon Lee in ProPublica:

When Barack Obama took office, he banned torture, shut down the CIA’s network of black-site prisons and pledged to close Guantanamo. But exactly where terror suspects should go continues to be a legal and political challenge for the administration. So we’ve rounded up some of the best reporting on rendition and detention under Obama. Got others? Add them in the comments.

Why Obama Hasn’t Closed Guantanamo Camps, Foreign Affairs, January 2012
Miami Herald’s Guantanamo reporter Carol Rosenberg analyzes the combination of political, security and bureaucratic obstacles that have thwarted Obama’s plans to shut down the prison. ProPublica has also covered the dilemma of indefinite detention at Guantanamo.

Terror Suspect Secretly Held for Two Months, Los Angeles Times, July 2011
Ahmed Warsame was the first known terror suspect to be held by the Obama administration outside the legal system, on a Navy ship. Administration officials said Warsame was interrogated “humanely” and not by the CIA. Wired’s Danger Room confirmed the ship where Warsame was held, calling it the administration’s floating alternative to Guantanamo.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Secret Prison Revealed in Baghdad, Los Angeles Times, April 2010
In a secret prison in Baghdad, hundreds of Sunnis were allegedly held and tortured under the jurisdiction of Iraqi prime minister Nouri Maliki’s military office. About a year later, a second secret prison was uncovered in the Green Zone, raising concerns about human rights abuses as the U.S. diminishes its role in Iraq.

U.S. Had Advance Warning of Abuse at Afghan Prisons, Officials Say, Washington Post, October 2011
Were CIA officials aware of torture inside Afghan prisons prior to a United Nations investigation? This piece explores whether U.S. officials failed to act on early evidence of detainee abuse at facilities run by an Afghan intelligence force funded by the U.S.

2 Afghans Allege Abuse at U.S. Site, Washington Post, and Afghans Detail Detention in ‘Black Jail’ at U.S. Base, New York Times, November 2009
Some of the first revelations about U.S. Joint Special Operations Command secret jail at Bagram Air Force Base emerged from these interviews with Afghans who said they had been held for months, and in some cases beaten. A few months later, the Red Cross confirmed the site to the BBC, but the U.S. continued to deny its existence.

Afghanistan Secret Prisons Confirmed by U.S., The Associated Press, April 2011
The Pentagon confirms a network of secret “temporary” detention centers in Afghanistan, but former detainees claim they were held weeks at a time. The AP also reports new details about JSOC’s secret jail at Bagram, where, according to human rights groups, detainees were forced to strip naked and kept in solitary confinement in windowless cells.

Detainees Are Handed Over to Afghans, but Not Out of Americans’ Reach, New York Times, May 2012
As detainees are transferred from Bagram to new, nominally Afghan-controlled prisons, Americans still have de facto control over their fate, as “no detainee can be released unless the Afghans consult with the Americans and consider their views favorably.”

Reports of Proxy Detention, Mother Jones, the Nation, and the New York Times
Several individuals who were detained overseas and held by local security forces under harsh conditions allege U.S. officials were complicit in their arrests. This April, Mother Jones wrote about a Muslim American man who claims he was interrogated and beaten by local police in the United Arab Emirates. He claims the questions were “eerily similar” to those asked by American officials when he was earlier interrogated in Sudan. In March 2010, The Nation chronicled the experience of a Lebanese man and naturalized U.S. citizen questioned by U.A.E. officials in the suspected presence of an American interrogator. In January 2011, the New York Times reported on a Somali-American teenager who claims he was held in a Kuwaiti detention cell and interrogated about contacts with terrorist suspects in Yemen. He said he was visited by American officials while in detention. In each case, the U.S. has declined comment.

The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia, The Nation, July 2011
This report describes a secret CIA counterterrorism training facility and an underground prison in Mogadishu. While the prison is run by the Somali National Security Agency, former prisoners and Somali officials say the CIA regularly conducts interrogations there and keeps local intelligence workers on the payroll.

Somalia’s Prisons: the War on Terror’s Latest Front, Daily Beast, June 2012
The U.S. acknowledged it has a military presence in Somalia just last month. The warden at an overcrowded Somali prison says the Americans have sent him sixteen prisoners since 2009. A Pentagon spokesman says only that the U.S. has handed prisoners “back over to where they came from.”

ProPublica consistently has excellent reporting. Take a look at this list of recent articles:

Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2012 at 2:32 pm

Extremely good interview with retiring Baltimore Police Commissioner

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The Eldest passed along a very interesting interview Justin Fenton did with Baltimore’s retiring Police Commissioner Bealefeld, titled “Bealefeld on the “failed” drug war, “The Wire,” and Coldplay”, which ran in the Baltimore Sun. Well worth reading. From the interview:

Professionally, I think our war on drugs was failed. That doesn’t mean the people who tried to do it were failures. We worked our rear ends off, and we did some great cases. I just think that we didn’t get much resolved. We invested a lot of this country’s blood and resources and didn’t achieve the results. Developing real educational and job opportunities for somebody would have been much more meaningful in neighborhoods than some of the work we built into putting people in jail. That’s why I think it was so misguided. We wound up alienating a lot of folks in building this gigantic jail system in our country.

We’ve alienated a lot of people that we rely on to make communities safer. As far as decriminalizing, one of the standards of our “Diamond Standard” training was being diplomatic. I always hope that our guys could differentiate between the value of taking a violent offender off the streets and some 16-year-old kid with a bag of weed in his pocket. To me, those two arrests are dramatically different. They don’t score as just one. They’re dramatically different. I’d hope that people understood that. As a society, that’s for us to cast our votes on. That’s a societal issue.

At the end of the day, my job is to figure out strategies to keep you safe. It’s not to fight the state legislature and say ‘I don’t believe in that law or this law.’ If you pass the law, I am legally bound to enforce it. But I have limited enforcement capabilities. I know jaywalking’s a crime and I know littering’s a crime. And I know running red lights is a crime. But I still have to get down to prioritizing what I want people to focus on first.

Go out and ask these cops today, ‘Did you ever get a letter from the commissioner – a commendatory letter?’ If they answer yes, ask them what it was for. The past five years, I’ve sent out commendatory letters for gun arrests. I grew up – I have stacks of photos and CDs of us celebrating drug seizures, standing behind piles of dope and cash. The last five years, I’ve recognized getting guns from bad guys off the streets. Do that, you get a letter from me. … It’s what you prioritize.

I think that was a much better use under my tenure of our resources than trying to win the war on drugs in our city. The vast majority of our arrests are still drug arrests, because we get the vast majority of calls for drug offenses. But in terms of what we celebrate and focus on day in and day out, they love getting guns now. They love it.

His comments on The Wire and the homicide rate. Interesting interview when read in connection with this blog post by David Simon (a former Baltimore Sun reporter who created The Wire) about the compilation of statistics.

Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Government, Law, Media

Mama Bear and the new Tradere straight-bar

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Sandalwood seems to be a fragrance that provokes an allergic reaction in some shavers—it’s more frequently mentioned than for other (possibly less popular) fragrances (e.g., rose). So this one is a good candidate for a sample if you’ve not used it before.

Fortunately, my skin is unbothered by sandalwood, and today’s shave was extremely nice. The Vie-Long horsehair brush worked up an excellent lather from Mama Bear’s Indian Sandalwood shaving soap—and if you’ve yet to try one of the Mama Bear soaps, I encourage you to do so soon. She not long ago lost her house and workshop in a fire, and it’s uncertain that she will be able to continue—so I suggest you order some soon. The range of fragrances is terrific, and the soaps lather quite well. She also has colognes and offers soaps in tub or as shave sticks. Take a look at some of her shaving soaps—and that does not include mentholated soaps, on a separate page. Nor does it include the florals; nor the essential oil soaps. Unscented soaps are available, and she offers seasonal and holiday soaps and some just for fun (Apple-Stuffed French Toast; Bacon; Oatmeal Stout; Pot Roast Dinner; Fresh-Cut Grass; and others. Note that samples are available. Take a chance—you’ll be glad you did.

The Tradere razor today used a prototype of the new straight-bar baseplate that is close to the final stages of development. I used it with a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blade and it was terrific. He really hit the bull’s-eye with this one: smooth shaving, comfortable, efficient, and pleasant on the face.

With the Tradere open-comb I feel a little like I’m walking on eggshells: I have to be very careful to maintain a shallow angle, and somehow the head doesn’t help me find the angle. It’s certainly better than the 2011 Mühle R41, which I tried a few times and sold, but I would not say that the Tradere open-comb is “comfortable” for me. But this head is. I’m reminded of the iKon: version 1.0 was an open-comb and quite harsh—so harsh I passed it along (though the recipient recently returned it to me, a gracious gesture that allows me to have a complete iKon collection). However, the iKon version 2.0 was another open-comb that was truly comfortable to shave with: a stunning improvement.

The same thing here: I really like this Tradere—the straight-bar baseplate. I received only the prototype baseplate to try, so it works with the same cap and handle. There may be some changes before final production, but so far as I’m concerned, it’s perfect the way it is: a very smooth, very comfortable, and very efficient shave, totally enjoyable.

Here are the two baseplates compared:

Color is off: artificial light (can’t use flash with macro). Tradere’s proprietor notes:

The differences between this and the open comb, besides the solid bar itself, are that the height of the bar is a bit higher and also extends a bit farther away from the body of the razor head. Both these changes were to make the straight-bar razor easier to handle and somewhat milder than the open-comb.

And indeed the design goals are achieved—perfectly so far as I’m concerned. This really is a terrific razor. But do note that it is a prototype and final design may be tweaked.

Written by Leisureguy

13 July 2012 at 8:04 am

Posted in Shaving

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