Later On

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

Archive for November 14th, 2013

First walk on ice

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Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 7:43 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Lara Logan, incompetent lying Benghazi reporter

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The CBS “60 minutes” report by Lara Logan had one MONUMENTAL error: the fact that the showstopper witness Dylan Davies was lying through his teeth, a fact they might have established in the course of their investigation—and one wonders whether the CBS offer to publish his book (through Simon & Schuster, which CBS owns) was not some sort of payment in return for program appearance. (That witness did try to sell his story to another reporter, who dropped him as a source immediately.)

Now Nancy Youssef of McClatchy looks at the “60 Minutes” report beyond Dylan Davies:

When “60 Minutes” apologized for featuring in its report on Benghazi a security contractor whose story turned out to be a lie, it said it had been “misled.” But a close examination of the controversial piece by McClatchy shows that there are other problems with the report, whose broadcast renewed debate about one of the most contentious events in recent U.S. diplomatic history.

In an email Wednesday, CBS declined to respond to questions about the accuracy and origin of some of the other aspects of the report. But it said that it was undertaking “a journalistic review that is ongoing” – the network’s first acknowledgement that concerns about the report may go deeper than just the discredited interview with security supervisor Dylan Davies.

“60 Minutes” spokesman Kevin Tedesco said CBS had begun the review “the moment we confirmed there was an issue in our story.” But he declined to elaborate on the investigation and did not respond to specific issues McClatchy raised about the segment, including unsourced assertions that al Qaida was behind the Benghazi attacks and claims about the investigation that the FBI and other experts question or deny outright.

The “60 Minutes” report, which was narrated by longtime CBS correspondent Lara Logan, was controversial almost from the moment it was broadcast Oct. 27, as could be expected for another rendition of what took place Sept. 11, 2012, when gunmen stormed a U.S. diplomatic compound and set its main building on fire. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and State Department computer expert Sean Smith, trapped inside, died of smoke inhalation. Hours later, attackers assaulted a CIA compound nearby, killing two security contractors.

Shortly after the segment aired, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has been a critic of the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi attacks, announced that he would block all administration appointments until the FBI surrendered to Congress notes of the interviews it had done with survivors.

But the credibility of the report soon came into question. CBS was taken to task for not revealing that Davies, on whose recollections the report was largely based, was the author of a soon-to-be released book published by a CBS-owned publishing company that features the work of politically conservative authors. On Oct. 31, The Washington Post revealed that Davies had filed a report with his employer, Blue Mountain Security, that contradicted his “60 Minutes” account, and The New York Times revealed Nov. 7 that Davies also gave an account to the FBI at odds with the “60 Minutes” version.

After The New York Times story was posted online, CBS quickly purged its websites of any mention of the piece and even demanded that a copy of the segment be removed from YouTube. On Sunday, Logan, in a brief appearance at the end of the regular “60 Minutes” broadcast, acknowledged that Davies had misled her and her crew and that “it was a mistake to include him in our report.”

But Logan’s mea culpa said nothing about other weaknesses in the report that a line-by-line review of the broadcast’s transcript reveals. McClatchy turned to LexisNexis, a legal research service, for a transcript of the broadcast because the segment no longer appeared on CBS sites.

The report repeatedly referred to al Qaida as solely responsible for the attack on the compound and made no mention of Ansar al Shariah, the Islamic extremist group that controls and provides much of the security in restive Benghazi and that has long been suspected in the attack. While the two organizations have worked together in Libya, experts said they have different aims – al Qaida has global objectives while Ansar al Shariah is focused on turning Libya into an Islamic state.

It is an important distinction, experts on those groups said. Additionally, al Qaida’s role, if any, in the attack has not been determined, and Logan’s narration offered no source for her repeated assertion that it had been.

“I think there are definitely connections, but I am not sure there is command and control” between al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah, said Aaron Y. Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies insurgent activity in North Africa.

Logan claimed that “it’s now well established that the Americans were attacked by al Qaida in a well-planned assault.” But al Qaida has never claimed responsibility for the attack, and the FBI, which is leading the U.S. investigation, has never named al Qaida as the sole perpetrator. Rather, it is believed a number of groups were part of the assault, including members and supporters of al Qaida and Ansar al Shariah, as well as attackers angered by a video made by an American that insulted Prophet Muhammad. The video spurred angry protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo hours beforehand.

In a Sept. 12, 2012, statement about the attack, Ansar al Shariah suggested its members had participated, though the group said it did not order the assault.

Moreover, questions remain over how far in advance the attack on the U.S. compound had been planned. Rather than a long-planned attack, investigators have told McClatchy it was likely planned hours, rather than days, in advance.

Another questionable assertion in the “60 Minutes” report was Logan’s unsourced reference to . . .

Continue reading. And DO read the whole thing. It is damning. Lara Logan and CBS fed us a tissue of lies—I say “lies” because what actually happened is, as we see from the McClatchy report, easy for a true journalist to discover in just a couple of weeks (rather than an entire year). And since the facts are so easy to learn—many of them, on whether it was an al-Qaida attack or not, just by asking—then the misstatements—the flat-out errors reported as fact—are deliberate. I don’t see how it could be otherwise.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 3:21 pm

Posted in Media

More about the dark side of American prisons

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David Dagan has a good piece in Wonkblog about Sen. Mike Lee’s interest in prison reform:

The federal prison population has more than doubled over the past 20 years, even as crime rates have plunged. Many people think that’s unjust. There is also growing agreement that it is unsafe.

Dozens of former federal prosecutors have signed on to a letter that declares: “Maintaining the status quo in federal sentencing policy threatens public safety.” It’s one of at least three such statements issued by prosecutors in recent months; federal judges and the U.S. Sentencing Commission have also called for changes.

The chief problem, as Brad Plumer has noted, is that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons is chewing up more and more of the federal law-enforcement budget, putting us on a course where punishing past crimes will be prioritized over preventing and solving future ones.

That’s true even though we’re already skimping on prison spending, relative to the need. The surge of inmates has choked federal lockups to 136 percent of capacity, and that figure is on track to hit 155 percent within a decade, according to a new reportfrom the Urban Institute. Playing sardines like this is dangerous to both inmates and guards. It also limits the rehabilitative programming that can prevent prisoners from returning to crime after their release.

To make things worse, medium- and maximum-security facilities are at 145 and 151 percent of capacity, respectively. Since they house a tougher population, these are precisely the facilities where congestion is most likely to erupt into violence.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the beginnings of a fix in coming weeks when it takes up two sentencing-reform bills whose sponsors include the firebrand conservatives Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) (in keeping with the movement’s new approach to prisons).

By allowing judges to depart from mandatory-minimum sentences under certain conditions, both bills essentially turn such sentences from requirements into recommendations. The measure Paul has championed does this for all mandatory minimums; the Lee bill simply expands a provision that already allows for judicial discretion in some drug cases. But the impact of both measures will be muted by the fact that judges rarely depart from sentencing recommendations in the first place, according to the Urban Institute.

The think tank’s report estimates the impact of various reform proposals in bed-years, which represent one year in prison for one person. The researchers project that the Paul reform would save 81,000 bed-years over the course of a decade; Lee’s bill would save 53,000. That’s a lot, but not enough to put a major dent in the prison population.

This is where the Lee bill, whose other sponsors are Democrats Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.), goes further. It includes a provision to . . .

Continue reading.

And here’s a particularly grim article by Josh Eidelson in Salon:

A new report alleges illegal and deadly mistreatment of Arizona inmates whose medical care the state contracted out to the country’s largest private prison health care provider.

The report, released last week by the American Friends Service Committee, a progressive Quaker group, comes as an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections awaits an appeals court ruling over the state’s challenge to its class action status. The ACLU alleges “grossly inadequate” care that creates “grave danger” for inmates, including “critically ill” people who were told to “be patient” or “pray” for healing, or that “it’s all in your head.”

Shortly before that lawsuit was filed in March 2013, the state contracted with its current for-profit health provider, Corizon, to replace the departed company Wexford. But the AFSC charges that “Correspondence from prisoners; analysis of medical records, autopsy reports, and investigations; and interviews with anonymous prison staff and outside experts indicate that, if anything, things have gotten worse.” Among the allegations: “delays and denials of care, lack of timely emergency treatment, failure to provide medication and medical devices, low staffing levels, failure to provide care and protection from infectious disease, denial of specialty care and referrals, and insufficient health treatment…”

Asked about the report, Corizon sent a statement saying that since March, it has “increased the number and skill level of our healthcare staff with the goal of continually improving patient outcomes.” Corizon said that its facilities are accredited and subject to internal audits, and that “ADC inmate patients receive care that meets their healthcare needs and satisfies constitutional requirements.” It added that “As with any large healthcare provider, litigation does arise from time to time. However, the vast majority of lawsuits filed against Corizon are without merit and are dismissed or settled with no findings of wrongdoing.” The Arizona Governor’s office did not immediately respond to an early morning Wednesday inquiry.

In 2011 and 2012, the deaths of thirty-seven total inmates were reported in the Arizona Republic. In contrast, writes the AFSC, fifty people have died in custody in the first two-thirds of this year. Last year, the Arizona Republic charged that “Arizona’s prison system has two death rows”: Those “officially sentenced to death” and those who “die as victims of prison violence, neglect and mistreatment.”

The AFSC report includes a series of case studies drawn from media reports and individuals’ accounts. The Arizona Capitol Times reported that a death-row inmate was diagnosed with throat cancer, “but his disease went unknown to him and untreated for seven more months.” A prisoner’s mother, a registered nurse, told AFSC that her son had lost his visitation and phone privileges for alleged “refusal” to provide urine for drug-testing, when the real and well-documented issue was his diagnosed post-chemotherapy bladder conditions. Staff at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital recorded that a patient who had been discharged back to the Tucson complex “was supposed to follow up [with] pathology and receive a PET scan; unfortunately none of that workup was done at this time. The patients says that he request [nut] no oncology consults ever been performed at this time either…it is felt that the patient does have cancerous etiology and does need to receive further workup.” . . .

Continue reading.

I find the Arizona situation shocking. The state officials seem depraved in their indifference. Still, for-profit healthcare has a strong tendency to be poor, especially when there’s a local monopoly (only one provider realistically available): more profits to be made that way.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 2:58 pm

The Federal government is becoming much too nosy

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Marisa Taylor writes for McClatchy:

U.S. agencies collected and shared the personal information of thousands of Americans in an attempt to root out untrustworthy federal workers that ended up scrutinizing people who had no direct ties to the U.S. government and simply had purchased certain books.

Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of two men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people – along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses and professions – to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. Although the polygraph-beating techniques are unproven, authorities hoped to find government employees or applicants who might have tried to use them to lie during the tests required for security clearances. Officials with multiple agencies confirmed that they’d checked the names in their databases and planned to retain the list in case any of those named take polygraphs for federal jobs or criminal investigations.

It turned out, however, that many people on the list worked outside the federal government and lived across the country. Among the people whose personal details were collected were nurses, firefighters, police officers and private attorneys, McClatchy learned. Also included: a psychologist, a cancer researcher and employees of Rite Aid, Paramount Pictures, the American Red Cross and Georgetown University.

Moreover, many of them had only bought books or DVDs from one of the men being investigated and didn’t receive the one-on-one training that investigators had suspected. In one case, a Washington lawyer was listed even though he’d never contacted the instructors. Dozens of others had wanted to pass a polygraph not for a job, but for a personal reason: The test was demanded by spouses who suspected infidelity.

The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrate the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.

The case comes to light amid revelations that the NSA, in an effort to track foreign terrorists, has for years been stockpiling the data of the daily telephone and Internet communications of tens of millions of ordinary Americans. Though nowhere near as massive as the NSA programs, the polygraph inquiry is another example of the federal government’s vast appetite for Americans’ personal information and the sweeping legal authority it wields in the name of national security.

“This is increasingly happening – data is being collected by the federal government for one use and then being entirely repurposed for other uses and shared,” said Fred Cate, an Indiana University-Bloomington law professor who specializes in information privacy and national security. “Yet there is no constitutional protection for sharing data within the government.”

Several people who were on the list not only were stunned to learn about it, but they also questioned how the government could legally collect and share their information when they have no direct link to the inquiry.

All of them said they were too nervous to be identified because they feared further scrutiny from the federal government or they didn’t want their names published by the media. “When it comes to national security, the government has a lot of leeway,” said one Washington lawyer whose husband landed on the list after the lawyer bought a book about how to pass lie detector tests. “But to me, this list raises First Amendment, due process and privacy issues.”

The lawyer doesn’t work for the federal government. The husband is a government employee but isn’t required to take a lie detector test for a security clearance. “I’m concerned this may harm his career even though there’s no reason that it should,” said the lawyer, who added that they planned to ask the government to take the husband’s name off the list. “It’s very alarming and McCarthy-esque in its zeal. To put a person on a secret list because they bought the ‘wrong book’ or are associated with someone who did is overly paranoid.” . . .

Continue reading.

Do read the whole thing. There’s quite a bit more and much in it raises concerns. From later in the article:

Others assert that the government clearly overreached. Customs officials recently confronted leaders of the agency’s union about their purchase of Williams’ book on beating lie detectors. Joseph Martin, the president of the Arizona chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union, said his vice president bought the book so the union could urge members not to voluntarily undergo a polygraph, because of its unreliability.

“What business is it of the government’s if we bought this book?” he said. “We have a right to read about lie detectors and tell our members not to take them.”

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 9:55 am

Circuit Court changes its mind without acknowledgment

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Nicole Flatow points out an interesting inconsistency (which I have boldfaced below):

Last month, a federal appeals court found that U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin violated ethics rules while overseeing the stop-and-frisk litigation and should be removed from the case. The ruling not only prompted immediate outcry from legal ethics expertsand a federal judge. It was also the basis for a wholly new motion by the city of New York to vacate Scheindlin’s ruling that the New York Police Department engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling in its stop-and-frisk program.

But in an opinion issued Wednesday, the appeals court told the parties: We didn’t really mean it when we said Scheindlin violated ethics rules. While the panel stood by its removal of Scheindlin based on the “appearance of impartiality,” they also said they did not “intend to imply in our previous order that Judge Scheindlin engaged in misconduct cognizable either under the Code of Conduct or under the Judicial Conduct,” even though they said in that order, “we conclude that the District Judge ran afoul of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges.” They added that Scheindlin’s removal “‘does not imply any personal criticism of the judge,’ and none is intended here.”

In another ruling, the court also declined to allow Scheindlin to intervene and argue against her removal, meaning that decision will likely stand unless it is reviewed by a full panel of Second Circuit judges.

The decision to remove Scheindlin from the case still means that, if the appeals court upholds Scheindlin’s finding that the NYPD engaged in unconstitutional racial profiling, she will not be the judge overseeing the decision’s enforcement. But it also means that the Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) last-ditch attempt to overturn Scheindlin’s ruling against one of his signature programs is likely dead, and that the appeals court does not intend to cite Scheindlin’s conduct as a basis for overturning the ruling as prejudiced. Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio (D) says he intends to drop the appeal when he takes office, meaning the case would never make it to oral argument, let alone a ruling on the merits.

I sure would like to know what’s going on here. We don’t know of anyone who trigger the Circuit Court’s intervention, but given Bloomberg’s great love of the stop-and-frisk policy and the power and connections that he has, it’s natural to wonder whether he pulled a few strings.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 9:33 am

Posted in Law

The War on Thanksgiving

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There’s a fictional “War on Christmas” that Bill O’Reilly brings up every winter and now the subject of a book by Sarah Palin (no co-author listed, so I assume there was a ghostwriter), a war that consists of a two-pronged attack, so far as I can tell: 1) observing the separation of church and state, as required by our Constitution, and 2) saying “Happy Holidays” to people. In other words: no war at all.

But on the Thanksgiving side, some companies really are waging a war, requiring employees to work on Thanksgiving Day instead of spending the day with their families. Via ThinkProgress, here’s a graphic that shows some companies that are undermining Thanksgiving, and some that support the family holiday.

war_on_thanksgiving_graphic-013

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 9:20 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

America’s broken incarceration system

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The poor way America treats those it imprisons is attracting attention. Some articles well worth reviewing:

Why America Has a Mass Incarceration Problem, and Why Germany and the Netherlands Don’t – an Atlantic Cities article by Mike Riggs

Half a Life in Solitary: How Colorado Made a Young Man Insane – Andrew Cohen in the Atlantic. Because we are social animals, long-term solitary confinement is torture. This article describes a true horror story.

Over 3,000 US prisoners serving life without parole for non-violent crimes – Ed Pilkington in The Guardian. One guy was sentenced to life without parole for stealing a $150 jacket. This is simply shameful.

Serving Life for This? – A NY Times column by Nick Kristof

Possession Of A Crack Pipe, And Other Small Crimes That Earned Thousands Of U.S. Prisoners Life Without Parole – Nicole Flatow at ThinkProgress

I encourage you to look over those stories and think about what our country is becoming.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 9:09 am

Posted in Government, Law

Uh-oh: Car parts going proprietary

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This strikes me as bad news:

Why DRM in cars is going to drive everyone mad. Renault’s new Zoe includes a battery that cannot be modified due to digital rights management, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Parker Higgins (via Gizmodo). “Instead of selling consumers a complete car that they can use, repair, and upgrade as they see fit, Renault has opted to lock purchasers into a rental contract with a battery manufacturer and enforce that contract with digital rights management (DRM) restrictions that can remotely prevent the battery from charging at all.”

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 9:04 am

Posted in Business, Daily life

Fitjar Såpekokeri Frost Rose, day 2

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SOTD 14 Nov 2013

Day two and a very fine shave.

Comments on lather will appear on Monday.

The English Gillette red-tipped Rocket (I am never sure about the correct names for English Gillettes) did a terrific job with a previously used Swedish Gillette blade. It has, for me, just the right level of comfort and efficiency.

And I did find my Speick, a good splash of which has made the morning enjoyable.

Written by LeisureGuy

14 November 2013 at 8:33 am

Posted in Shaving

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