Later On

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

Archive for August 15th, 2014

Very important point regarding privacy: the data belong to you, not to their handlers

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Important article on issues likely to grow more pressing in days ahead.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 5:19 pm

What is happening in Ferguson is breaking open some rotten eggs

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Read this interesting article by Sarah Stillman in the New Yorker. I think it is a hopeful sign that this is all coming to light and is an international spectacle. Perhaps some changes can be made. The article begins:

Two crucial battles broke out in Ferguson, Missouri, this week. The first began with the public airing of sorrow and rage after the death of the eighteen-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer, on Canfield Court, in the St. Louis suburb, at 2:15 P.M. last Saturday. Then came the local law enforcement’s rejoinder to the early round of protests. Officers rolled in with a fleet of armored vehicles, sniper rifles, and tear-gas cannisters, reinserting the phrase “the militarization of policing” into the collective conscience. The tactical missteps by the town’s police leadership have been a thing to behold. (They’re also to be expected; anyone doubting as much should pick up Radley Balko’s “The Rise of the Warrior Cop.”)

One moment, we see a young man with a welt from a rubber bullet between his eyes; the next, three officers with big guns are charging at another black man who has his hands up. On Thursday, Jelani Cobb filed a powerful accountfrom the sidewalks and homes of Ferguson. Cobb asks about “the intertwined economic and law-enforcement issues underlying the protests,” including, for instance, the court fees that many people in Ferguson face, which often begin with minor infractions and eventually become “their own, escalating, violations.” “We have people who have warrants because of traffic tickets and are effectively imprisoned in their homes,” Malik Ahmed, the C.E.O. of an organization called Better Family Life, told Cobb. “They can’t go outside because they’ll be arrested. In some cases, people actually have jobs but decide that the threat of arrest makes it not worth trying to commute outside their neighborhood.”

The crisis of criminal justice debt is just one of the many tributaries feeding the river of deep rage in Ferguson. But it’s an important one—both because it’s so ubiquitous and because it’s easily overlooked in the spectacular shadow of tanks and turrets. Earlier this year, I spent six months reporting on the rise of profiteering in American courts, which happens by way of the proliferation of fees and fines for very minor offenses—part of a growing movement toward what’s known as offender-funded justice. Private companies play an aggressive role in collecting these fees in certain states. (Often, this tactic is aimed at the poor with unpaid traffic tickets.) The reports from Ferguson raise questions about how militarization and economic coercion feed a shared anger.

Missouri was one of the first states to allow private probation companies, in the late nineteen-eighties, and it has since followed the national trend of allowing court fees and fines to mount rapidly. Now, across much of America, what starts as a simple speeding ticket can, if you’re too poor to pay, mushroom into an insurmountable debt, padded by probation fees and, if you don’t appear in court, by warrant fees. (Often, poverty means transience—not everyone who is sent a court summons receives it.) “Across the country, impoverished people are routinely jailed for court costs they’re unable to pay,” Alec Karakatsanis, a cofounder of Equal Justice Under Law, a nonprofit civil-rights organization that has begun challenging this practice in municipal courts, said. These kinds of fines snowball when defendants’ cases are turned over to for-profit probation companies for collection, since the companies charge their own “supervision” fees. What happens when people fall behind on their payments? Often, police show up at their doorsteps and take them to jail.

From there, the snowball rolls. “Going to jail has huge impacts on people at the edge of poverty,” Sara Zampieren, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me. “They lose their job, they lose custody of their kids, they get behind on their home-foreclosure payments,” the sum total of which, she said, is “devastating.” While in prison, “user fees” often accumulate, so that, even after you leave, you’re not quite free. A recent state-by-state survey conducted by NPR showed that in at least forty-three states defendants can be billed for their own public defender, a service to which they have a Constitutional right; in at least forty-one states, inmates can be charged for room and board in jail and prison.

America’s militarized police forces now have some highly visible tools at their disposal, some of which have been in the spotlight this week: machine guns, night-vision equipment, military-style vehicles, and a seemingly endless amount of ammo. But the economic arm of police militarization is often far less visible, and offender-funded justice is part of this sub-arsenal. . .

Continue reading. And it’s pretty easy to see more facets of the racist aspects: cf. marijuana arrests—they’ve tripled over the past few years and blacks are arrested grossly disproportionately to whites. Things are very out of whack.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 5:00 pm

WOW: Texas Gov. Perry Indicted on Charge of Abuse of Power

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I don’t think it would go this far against someone this powerful unless… but we’ll see. What I know.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 4:22 pm

Posted in GOP, Government, Law

Ferguson question: Why on earth did the officer leave the scene?

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Isn’t he supposed to stick around? Obviously? What the hell?

Or has this been explained and I missed it?

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 3:37 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

This helps explain the shooting of an unarmed black teen-ager by a Ferguson policeman

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It seems to be an expression of the police culture in that city. Another expression of the police department’s outlook here. These things don’t come out of nowhere, you know. The policeman is not a maniac: he was operating in the light of the values of the Ferguson Police Department.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Tear gas is banned in international warfare — and in use in Ferguson, MO

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Sarah Kliff has an interesting report at

Tear gas is a chemical weapon that the Geneva Convention bans from use in international warfare. In the Ferguson, Missouri protests, police have used it repeatedly to disperse crowds.

“I’m very concerned about the increased use, and the much laxer attitude we’ve developed towards the potential health effects,” says Sven-Eric Jordt, a scientist at Duke University who researches tear gas.

Jordt says we know a decent amount about how tear gas effects the body in the short-term: it activates pain receptors, especially in the eyes, forcing the eyelids to squeeze shut and tear uncontrollably. Jordt, who himself was tear-gassed during a protest in Germany in the 1980s, describes the sensation as “like cutting an onion but about 100 times more severe.”

There is little known, however, about whether the main chemical in modern tear gas — a compound called 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile — can have longer lasting effects on the body. That’s something Jordt and his colleagues are currently researching.

Jordt and I spoke Thursday morning about the history of tear gas, how the compound effects the body and what we still don’t know about how tear gas works.

Sarah Kliff: Can you start by walking me through the history of tear gas. How was it developed, and why does it exist in the first place?

Sven-Eric Jordt: The first tear gas agents were developed during the First World War as warfare agents. These were highly aggressive, organic compounds used in trench warfare and other situations alongside other, more lethal war gases like mustard gas.

The tear gas that’s used by law enforcement now is typically CS gas. It’s a compound that was developed because its less toxic. It’s used for clearing wider areas. It was used in the Middle East and Turkey recently to a scale that was unprecedented. Use has increased tremendously over the last few years; its also been used in the US more and more. I think it’s what’s being used in Ferguson.

SK: How do these gases work?

SEJ: The way these gases work, and this is what we do research on, is that they activate pain receptors — the pain sensing nerves in our body. The cornea is densely covered with these receptors. When tear gas activates these pain receptors, that leads to body reflexes like profuse tear secretion and a muscle cramp in the eyelid that causes them to close. These are all protective responses that the body has to pain, and with the gas they become extremely exaggerated.

There are situations where this can be very dangerous or lethal. If somebody has asthma, for example, or a hypersensitivity or an airwave disease that can be very dangerous. It’s not very frequent, but it has been a problem in the Middle East and other places.

Tear gas can also lead to profuse mucus production, and that can lead to the feeling of suffocation. That’s especially true if it’s used in closed environments, like what you saw in Cairo. That’s not the case here in Ferguson.SK: Can you explain what it feels like to be tear-gassed? I understand that you’ve experienced it yourself once. . .

Continue reading.

Illegal to use in warfare, perfectly okay to use on your own civlians—civilians, it should be noted, that were doing nothing wrong, simply gathered to protest peacefully. And of course some tear gas was deliberately directed at TV crews.

These are the actions of a police state. The citizens of Missouri apparently accept living under an authoritarian police presence that seems to be able to do what it wants with no accountability.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 12:39 pm

Low doses of antibiotics early in life lead to adult obesity in mice

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I can readily believe that it’s a good idea to avoid antibiotics whenever feasible, and particularly avoid giving them to infant children unless there’s no other choice. Jyoti Madhusoodanan reports at The Scientist:

A brief, low dose of antibiotics shortly after birth can have long-lasting consequences on gut microbes in mice and lead to obesity once the rodents reach middle age. These findings, published today (August 14) in Cell, suggest that the gut microbiome may influence the development of metabolic pathways during a critical time window early in life.

Low doses of antibiotics have been used to promote animal growth in agriculture for several decades, although the mechanism underlying the drugs’ fattening effect was unclear. Martin Blaser of the New York University Langone Medical Center and his colleagues showed in a 2012 Nature paper that early-life antibiotic therapy in mice altered hormone levels and the activities of genes involved in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism.

For this latest study, Blaser and his colleagues aimed to better understand how the timing of such treatment might mediate microbial effects on host metabolism, he told The Scientist. The researchers treated two groups of mice with low doses of penicillin either shortly before pups were born or while they were weaning. A third group of pups received the antibiotic after they had been weaned. The low doses of penicillin used in the experiments were not strong enough to decrease the overall gut microbial population, although the treatment did lead to increased body fat and skewed the proportions of dominant bacterial species in the gut.

Treated mice had significantly lower levels of Lactobacillus in their guts than untreated mice; Candidatusand Allobaculum, two other bacteria that typically reach peak proportions early in life, were suppressed by the small penicillin doses.

“We usually see that high doses of antibiotics decrease microbial diversity, but that’s typical of ‘antibiotic bombs,’” said microbiologist Federico Rey of the University of Wisconsin-Madison who was not involved with the work. “Here, this suppression of dominant bacteria may allow other species to flourish.”

Compared to untreated animals, mice treated with penicillin after they were weaned showed . . .

Continue reading.

And of course food animals are given low doses of antibiotics because that causes faster weight gain, though at the cost of breeding antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a tradeoff that businesses are happy to make. Indeed, the trade-off probably doesn’t even appear on their radar, since that would be an external cost, not relevant to the business’s profits.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 August 2014 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, Health, Science

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