Later On

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

Archive for August 13th, 2012

Interesting development in Poland, which takes torture and international law more seriously than does the US

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Roy Gutman, reporting for McClatchy:

STARE KIEJKUTY, Poland — On an idyllic lake surrounded by woods and a double row of mesh-and-razor-wire fences about 100 miles north of Warsaw, there stands a secluded villa that the CIA once used to interrogate – and allegedly torture – top al Qaida suspects.

On the grounds of the Polish intelligence-training academy and nicknamed “Markus Wolf” for the former East German spy chief, it’s the focal point for a top-secret probe that Polish prosecutors have launched into how their government tolerated rampant violations of international and Polish law.

If former officials are brought to trial, or if the stacks of classified files in the prosecutors’ offices are made public, the result will be revelations about an American anti-terrorism operation whose details U.S. officials are fighting to keep secret.

Already the prosecutor has charged Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, Poland’s former interior minister and intelligence chief, with unlawful detention and corporal punishment for allowing the CIA to operate at Stare Kiejkuty from December 2002 to September 2003.

And the prosecutor’s office has given victim status in the case to two men the U.S. is holding indefinitely at Guantanamo: Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi charged with masterminding the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, and Abu Zubaydah, whom the Bush administration once described as the third-ranking leader of al Qaida but who may have been only a safe house minder. Nashiri faces a possible death sentence; Abu Zubaydah, who’s been held for 10 years, hasn’t been charged.

Their status as victims comes from claims that they were kidnapped by U.S. authorities, brought to Poland illegally, tortured, then spirited from Poland to other detention centers without the legally required extradition proceedings.

The villa cannot be seen from the main road or spotted on Google Earth maps. At the request of Polish authorities, its location has been blurred, the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported.

That’s what some parts of the Polish government would like to have happen to everything that took place here.

State prosecutors, on the other hand, seem motivated to bring the case to court. . .

Continue reading. Would that US prosecutors (and presidents) took their duties under law as seriously. But they don’t. The idea in the US is to ignore and cover-up and destroy evidence (92 videotapes of interrogations destroyed—and the destruction publicly bragged about, with no repercussions or accountability).

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2012 at 6:25 pm

Jewel vs. Garnet yam

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The jewel yam seems to cook oranger than the garnet, but I have trouble telling them apart. I think I’ve figured it out, though: the garnet yam has a reddish skin and tends to be thicker and rounder—sort of more corpulent—and the jewel has brown (sort of light brown) skin and is longer and skinnier.

Safeway labels yams as “red skins” and (no label), so I got no help there, and the produce person didn’t know any more than the sign said. However, there were some organic yams with identifying labels that claimed they were jewel yams, and based on the appearance of those, I figured that the (no label) yams were also jewel yams. When I was checking out, the checker—a woman of a certain age—looked as though she might know, so I asked whether the yam I had was a jewel yam. “Nope,” she said, “that’s a garnet yam.”

I was pretty sure it was a jewel—by then I thought I had the difference figured out—so I asked, “Are you sure?”

“Yes,” she said. “Because when I key in the code, ‘garnet” comes up.” Of course, she was keying in the code from memory—the yam wasn’t labeled—so that had a certain circular quality.

Back home, a little looking through Google images helped make me feel more certain that I had purchased a jewel yam.

The challenges one faces!

I blogged earlier this photo from Zoë Bakes:

The caption reads:

From top: Camote (sweet potato), Purple “ube” Asian Yam, Sweet Asian Yam, Yampi Yampi, Jewel “yam” (sweet potato), Sweet Potato, Garnet “yam” (sweet potato). In order to taste all of the varieties on an equal playing field we baked them.

And this is the result when roasted:

Zoë Bakes notes:

Here is the flesh of the sweet potatoes. Both Ochen and I thought that the Jewel “yam” was the sweetest, then the Garnet “yam”, the Camote and finally the sweet potato was the least sweet of the bunch.

So now I always buy Jewel “yams” and skip the Garnets. Those are the only two varieties on offer in the grocery stores here.

UPDATE: A commenter pointed out the Satsumaimo yam, described at the link. It looks like this:


When cooked:


Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2012 at 4:48 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

7 reasons Israel should not attack Iran

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The situation is becoming very serious. The costs of an all-out war with Iran will be immense, on all sides. Jeffrey Goldberg has a post in the Atlantic listing why such an attack is a bad idea:

On his Twitter feed, Oren Kessler reports that news analysts on Israel’s Channel 2 are in agreement that an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities seems to be imminent. Ari Shavit, of Haaretz, is reporting that an unnamed senior Israeli security official he interviewed who is identified in a headline as “the decision-maker” (If you guess Ehud Barak, the defense minister, you would not be wrong) is arguing that the zero-hour is approaching for an Israeli decision:

“If Israel forgoes the chance to act and it becomes clear that it no longer has the power to act, the likelihood of an American action will decrease. So we cannot wait a year to find out who was right: the one who said that the likelihood of an American action is high or the one who said the likelihood of an American action is low.”

Aluf Benn, the editor of Haaretz, writes that the world seems to have accepted the idea that Israel will soon strike Iran: “All the signs show that the ‘international community,’ meaning the western powers and the U.S. in the lead, seem to have reconciled themselves with Israel’s talk of a military strike – and now they are pushing Netanyahu to stand by his rhetoric and send his bombers to their targets in Iran. In general terms, the market has already accounted for the Israeli strike in its assessment of the risk of the undertaking, and it is now waiting for the expectation to be realized.” And then, of course, there is Efraim Halevy, the former head of the Mossad, who warned earlier this month that Iran should fear an Israeli strike over the next twelve weeks.

I’m not going to guess whether Israel will strike Iran tomorrow, next month, next year, or never. I believe it is highly plausible that Netanyahu and Barak will do so at some point over the next twelve months, if current trends remain the same. (The Atlantic Iran War Dial, which is set by a panel of 22 experts, currently puts the chance of an Israeli or American strike over the next 12 months at 38 percent.)  Obviously, the Obama Administration believes that Netanyahu and Barak are itching to give the strike order soon. Otherwise, why would it have sent half the senior national security team to Israel over the past several weeks?

Though I have no idea what’s going to happen in the coming weeks, this seems like an opportune moment to once again list the many reasons why an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities is a bad idea. Believe me, I take seriously the arguments made by Netanyahu and Barak in favor of action against Iran (read the Shavit piece, linked above, for a very good summary of all the reasons why a nuclear Iran would be a catastrophe for Israel, and pretty damn bad for the Arabs and the West as well), but the negatives still outweigh the positives in my mind: Here are some potential consequences of an Israeli strike: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2012 at 11:35 am

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Autonomous plane flying indoors through obstacle course

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This is astonishing. Via James Fallows Atlantic blog:

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2012 at 8:18 am

Posted in Technology

The downside of open-access scholarly publishing

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Steve of Kafeneio mentioned in a comment the practice of requiring scholars to pay to publish in PLoS (Public Library of Science), which generally is respected—and indeed traditional scholarly journals sometimes charge “page fees” for publication. But the introduction of payment obviously can have corrupting effects, as Jeffrey Beale notes in this article in The Scientist:

Agreat upheaval is occurring in scholarly publishing. Over the past 10 years, researchers, academics, and academic librarians have been promoting open-access publishing, and we are just now beginning to see the results of their advocacy, which unfortunately are way below expectations.

One result is that the open-access movement is producing an almost boomtown-like increase in the number of scholarly open-access publishers, fostered by a very low barrier to entrance into the learned publishing industry. To become a scholarly publisher, all you need now is a computer, a website, and the ability to create unique journal titles.

Bolstering this trend is the so-called “gold open-access” model, in which publishing is supported not by subscription fees but by author fees. An example of a gold open-access journal is The Scientific World Journal, currently published by Cairo-based Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This megajournal covers virtually all scientific fields and imposes an article processing charge of $1,000 for each accepted article. Similarly, the better-known Public Library of Science (PLoS)journals charge authors anywhere from $1,350 to $2,900 to publish, with a discount if the researcher is affiliated with a university that is an institutional member.

This increase in the number of open-access journals has major implications for scholarly publishing. Authors become the publishers’ customers, an arrangement that creates a conflict of interest: the more papers a publisher accepts, the more revenue it earns.

Not surprisingly, acceptance rates at gold open-access journals are skyrocketing, and article peer review is decreasing. Scholarly communication is now flooded with hundreds of thousands of new, second-rate articles each year, burdening conscientious researchers who have to sort through them all, filtering out the unworthy ones.

Exploiting the trend is an increasing number of what I define as “predatory” publishers—those that . . .

Continue reading. This is a serious problem and it must be addressed with some sense of urgency. In the same issue of The Scientist as the above article, there is a feature article “Whither Science Publishing” that is worth reading. It has several scientists and publishers address a series of questions on the state and future of science publishing—very interesting discussions.

Jeffrey Beall is a metadata librarian at the University of Colorado Denver’s Auraria Library and writes about scholarly open-access publishing on his blog, Scholarly Open Access.

Those providing responses to the questions in “Whither Science Publishing” are:

Michael Eisen: Howard Hughes Investigator and Associate Professor of Genetics, Genomics, and Development, University of California, Berkeley

Randy Schekman and Mark Patterson: Editor-in-Chief and Managing Executive Editor of forthcoming open-access journal eLife

Patrick Taylor: Bioethicist and Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School

Alicia Wise: Director of Universal Access, Elsevier

Stuart Taylor: Commercial Director, The Royal Society

John Vaughn: Executive Vice President, Association of American Universities

Brian Scanlan: President, Thieme Publishers

Martin Frank: Executive Director, American Physiological Society

Susan King: Senior Vice President, American Chemical Society Journals Publishing Group

Carol Tenopir: Chancellor’s Professor at the School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Director of Research for the College of Communication and Information; Director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies

Donald King: Adjunct Professor, University of Tennessee; Honorary University Professor, Bryant University, Rhode Island

Written by Leisureguy

13 August 2012 at 7:49 am

Posted in Business, Science

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