Later On

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

Archive for August 24th, 2014

Science students develop a manicure that changes color when exposed to ‘date rape’ drugs

with 2 comments

UPDATE: Here’s a good response to the report below.

Speaking of good news, check out this article by Olivia Fleming in the Daily Mail:

Soon, a fresh manicure could have the potential to save your life.

Mixing chemistry with cosmetics, four male undergraduates at North Carolina State University have created Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when exposed to date rape drugs.

‘With our nail polish, any woman will be empowered to discreetly ensure her safety by simply stirring her drink with her finger. If her nail polish changes color, she’ll know that something is wrong,’ according to the official Facebook page.

The nail polish’s developers, Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Stephen Gray, Ankesh Madan and Tasso Von Windheim, meet while studying the same Materials Science & Engineering major.

‘We were thinking about big problems in our society, the topic of drug-facilitated sexual assault came up,’ Mr Madan told Higher Education Works.

‘All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on preventive solutions, especially those that could be integrated into products that women already use.

 All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience [of sexual assault], so we began to focus on preventive solutions

‘And so the idea of creating a nail polish that detects date rape drugs was born.’

Still in the development stage, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 6:02 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost

leave a comment »

And what do you bet that, even if this were absolutely established, people would still continue to build large dams? I bet you anything that they would.

Jacques Leslie writes in the NY Times:

THAYER SCUDDER, the world’s leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, has changed his mind about dams.

A frequent consultant on large dam projects, Mr. Scudder held out hope through most of his 58-year career that the poverty relief delivered by a properly constructed and managed dam would outweigh the social and environmental damage it caused. Now, at age 84, he has concluded that large dams not only aren’t worth their cost, but that many currently under construction “will have disastrous environmental and socio-economic consequences,” as he wrote in a recent email.

Mr. Scudder, an emeritus anthropology professor at the California Institute of Technology, describes his disillusionment with dams as gradual. He was a dam proponent when he began his first research project in 1956, documenting the impact of forced resettlement on 57,000 Tonga people in the Gwembe Valley of present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe. Construction of the Kariba Dam, which relied on what was then the largest loan in the World Bank’s history, required the Tonga to move from their ancestral homes along the Zambezi River to infertile land downstream. Mr. Scudder has been tracking their disintegration ever since.

Once cohesive and self-sufficient, the Tonga are troubled by intermittent hunger, rampant alcoholism and astronomical unemployment. Desperate for income, some have resorted to illegal drug cultivation and smuggling, elephant poaching, pimping and prostitution. Villagers still lack electricity.

Mr. Scudder’s most recent stint as a consultant, on the Nam Theun 2 Dam in Laos, delivered his final disappointment. He and two fellow advisers supported the project because it required the dam’s funders to carry out programs that would leave people displaced by the dam in better shape than before the project started. But the dam was finished in 2010, and the programs’ goals remain unmet. Meanwhile, the dam’s three owners are considering turning over all responsibilities to the Laotian government — “too soon,” Mr. Scudder said in an interview. “The government wants to build 60 dams over the next 20 or 30 years, and at the moment it doesn’t have the capacity to deal with environmental and social impacts for any single one of them. . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Environment, Government

Tomato pie recipe: A savory pie

with one comment

This sounds great.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Interesting article on police body-cams

leave a comment »

This is from April of last year, but the information is still useful. Randall Stross writes in the NY Times:

HERE’S a fraught encounter: one police officer, one civilian and anger felt by one or both. Afterward, it may be hard to sort out who did what to whom.

Now, some police departments are using miniaturized video cameras and their microphones to capture, in full detail, officers’ interactions with civilians. The cameras are so small that they can be attached to a collar, a cap or even to the side of an officer’s sunglasses. High-capacity battery packs can last for an extended shift. And all of the videos are uploaded automatically to a central server that serves as a kind of digital evidence locker.

William A. Farrar, the police chief in Rialto, Calif., has been investigating whether officers’ use of video cameras can bring measurable benefits to relations between the police and civilians. Officers in Rialto, which has a population of about 100,000, already carry Taser weapons equipped with small video cameras that activate when the weapon is armed, and the officers have long worn digital audio recorders.

But when Mr. Farrar told his uniformed patrol officers of his plans to introduce the new, wearable video cameras, “it wasn’t the easiest sell,” he said, especially to some older officers who initially were “questioning why ‘big brother’ should see everything they do.”

He said he reminded them that civilians could use their cellphones to record interactions, “so instead of relying on somebody else’s partial picture of what occurred, why not have your own?” he asked. “In this way, you have the real one.”

Last year, Mr. Farrar used the new wearable video cameras to conduct a continuing experiment in his department, in collaboration with Barak Ariel, a visiting fellow at theInstitute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge  and an assistant professor at Hebrew University.

Half of Rialto’s uniformed patrol officers on each week’s schedule have been randomly assigned the cameras, also made by Taser International. Whenever officers wear the cameras, they are expected to activate them when they leave the patrol car to speak with a civilian.

A convenient feature of the camera is its “pre-event video buffer,” which continuously records and holds the most recent 30 seconds of video when the camera is off. In this way, the initial activity that prompts the officer to turn on the camera is more likely to be captured automatically, too.

THE Rialto study began in February 2012 and will run until this July. The results from the first 12 months are striking. Even with only half of the 54 uniformed patrol officers wearing cameras at any given time, the department over all had an 88 percent decline in the number of complaints filed against officers, compared with the 12 months before the study, to 3 from 24.

Rialto’s police officers also used force nearly 60 percent less often — in 25 instances, compared with 61. When force was used, it was twice as likely to have been applied by the officers who weren’t wearing cameras during that shift, the study found. And, lest skeptics think that the officers with cameras are selective about which encounters they record, Mr. Farrar noted that those officers who apply force while wearing a camera have always captured the incident on video.

As small as the cameras are, they seem to be noticeable to civilians, he said. “When you look at an officer,” he said, “it kind of sticks out.” Citizens have sometimes asked officers, “Hey, are you wearing a camera?” and the officers say they are, he reported.

But what about the privacy implications? Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, says: “We don’t like the networks of police-run video cameras that are being set up in an increasing number of cities. We don’t think the government should be watching over the population en masse.” But requiring police officers to wear video cameras is different, he says: “When it comes to the citizenry watching the government, we like that.”

Mr. Stanley says that all parties stand to benefit — the public is protected from police misconduct, and officers are protected from bogus complaints. “There are many police officers who’ve had a cloud fall over them because of an unfounded accusation of abuse,” he said. “Now police officers won’t have to worry so much about that kind of thing.”

Mr. Farrar says officers have told him of cases when citizens arrived at a Rialto police station to file a complaint and the supervisor was able to retrieve and play on the spot the video of what had transpired. “The individuals left the station with basically no other things to say and have never come back,” he said. . . .

Continue reading.

And note this study on how effective such cameras are, published by PoliceFoundation.org. From the link:

The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use-of-force compared to control-conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12-months prior to the experiment.

I do believe that we will require the missing-video presumption as a law, though.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 10:55 am

A pen that copies colors from actual objects so you can draw that color

with one comment

Amazing.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 10:44 am

Posted in Art, Technology

How a Squad of Ex-Cops Fights Police Abuses

leave a comment »

Very interesting article by Jason Fagone in Mother Jonesi:

HE SHOT A GUY here, he says.

Allen E. Smith and I are sitting in his black Chevy Avalanche with tinted windows, staring out at a small deli in northwest Fort Lauderdale. It was 1976, Smith tells me. He was 28, an officer in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department working a detail that involved watching certain vulnerable stores for robberies. Sure enough, one night while he was crouching under a tree across the way, a robber overpowered the elderly clerk. Smith caught him coming out the door. The guy had a gun in his waistband. Smith had a shotgun. He pumped it and said, “Freeze!” The guy made like he was reaching for his gun. “So I shot him.”

He says this blankly, without a hint of sympathy or remorse. It was his job to protect the store. The job entailed blowing a hole in a man’s torso, and this he did. The guy died a few days later.

Smith is 65 now, with a rough slab of nose and a deeply grooved forehead. He has a soft voice and he’s not especially huge, but you can tell he used to lift weights; as a younger man, his arms were as thick as his neck. For years, he had an unusual specialty within the department. Whenever the police caught wind that someone was trying to hire a hit man, Smith would offer his services to the plotter. He called himself Al Sanetti, and he did his best to look the part, wearing a gold-nugget bracelet and a lion-head pendant with a diamond in its mouth and rubies for eyes. His business card said only SANETTI SERVICES, with a pager number.

On Smith’s first murder-for-hire investigation, the bar owner proposing to enlist him pointed a .45 at his head and said, “If you are who you say you are, I’ll apologize to you. If you turn out to be something else, I’ll blow your fucking head off.” The guy leaned in to search him. Smith played it cool. Afterward, though, “I told him that one was free, but if he crossed me or pulled a gun on me again, he’d better use it, because I’d hurt him so bad he’d beg me to kill him.” That story made it into Under Contract, a true-crime book about Smith that later became a TV movie.He drives to another small market and starts telling another story, about another robbery. The suspect this time was younger. “He’s got the gun in one hand and the money in the other. He turns around. I didn’t want to give him a chance to shoot.” Smith’s voice becomes small and far away. “He died.” He falls silent for a few moments. “His teacher from one of the local high schools went to the police department, saying the guy was a good kid, and he never should have gotten shot. Yeah, he probably shouldn’t have. He should have stayed home.”

During his 26 years as a cop, Smith thought he saw things clearly: There were good guys and there were bad guys. But then something changed.

During his 26 years as a cop, Smith thought he saw things clearly. There were good guys and there were bad guys, and he dealt with some of the worst. But then something changed.

In 1997, Smith retired from the police force. He needed a job to help cover his two daughters’ college expenses, so he signed up as an investigator in the Broward County Public Defender’s Office. He had little idea that he’d end up a key player in a bold experiment in criminal justice, one that aims to give tens of thousands of people who can’t afford lawyers a fighting chance in a system stacked against them. It’s an effort that suggests new ways for court-appointed attorneys to get at the truth, despite their insane caseloads. And a big part of it is getting former cops to police the police.

At the public defender’s office, Smith supervises 11 other investigators, 9 of whom are retired officers like him. Every day, they deploy technology, public records, and good old-fashioned legwork to dig into the sorts of complaints against cops and prosecutors that they used to brush off. In the process, they’re not only turning up evidence of sloppy police work and racial profiling. They’re also finding what they never would have guessed in their previous careers—that some of the sketchy characters they cross paths with are actually innocent.

THE LEGAL RATIONALE for America’s system of public defense is simple and clear, and it originated in Florida. . .

Continue reading. It’s a very interesting article. Later in the article:

. . . Suppose you get into serious trouble and need an attorney, says Jonathan Rapping, the president of Gideon’s Promise, a group that trains public defenders. You’d expect that attorney to sit down with you and help you understand the charges. You’d expect him or her “to go out and investigate. Knock on doors. Talk to witnesses. File and litigate motions. Be in court.”

But if the court assigns you a defender saddled with the maximum caseload, you might meet your lawyer for the first time in the courthouse hallway to discuss your hasty plea. In Missouri, according to a 2014 study commissioned by an American Bar Association committee, public defenders typically spend a mere nine hours on a serious felony such as armed robbery—less than one-fifth of what a panel of public and private attorneys agreed was needed to provide “reasonably effective” counsel.

You need people to pound the pavement, locate hard-to-find witnesses, check alibis: “These cases are fact-intensive.”

And that’s just the lawyers. The 2007 BJS report found that 40 percent of county public defender’s offices had no investigators at all. “Even the best lawyers in the world, you can only work with what you have,” says Rapping, who started his career as an investigator in the Washington, DC, public defender’s office. “These cases are fact-intensive.” You need people to go out there and pound the pavement, locate hard-to-find witnesses, check alibis. Says Finkelstein, “It’s not like my clients come in and say, ‘Dr. Smith was a witness on this date, so you need to go down to Galt Ocean Drive and get this information.’ Our clients come in and say, ‘Somebody named Junebug, who knows Badass down the street, who hangs out at 11 o’clock at night under the streetlamp’—I gotta find that person.”

To fill what few investigator slots they do have, public defenders often scout for idealistic college grads looking to do good, but these cub investigators burn out quickly. Former cops come in with experience—but that carries its own risks, Rapping says: “On the law enforcement side of things, you can become very jaded. You can come to believe that when someone is accused of a crime, they must have done it.” . . .

. . . One involved a young woman charged with writing a counterfeit check in the amount of $4,200. She told a convoluted tale. The gist was that she had recently become unemployed and had gotten the check via FedEx from a company that was offering her a job and had asked her to cash it. As a cop, Smith would have pegged her as a grifter and never given her story a second thought. But he started digging. He traced the FedEx envelope back to a retired fire chief, the kind of guy he was inclined to trust; the chief’s wife explained that her shipping account had been hacked, and fraudsters had used it to send more than 200 bad checks to job seekers all over the country.

It wasn’t the most dramatic case, but at the moment when Smith realized his client was a victim, not a perpetrator, he experienced “a complete change of life.” The ideal of innocent until proven guilty had always struck him as a scam invented by defense attorneys. “Now, on the desk in front of me, lay the key to setting free a totally innocent person,” he later wrote in Florida Defender magazine. “It is hard to describe my exact feelings at that point.” He persuaded prosecutors to drop the charges. . . .

. . . “I consider myself going from Z to A now,” Arth says. “As a cop, I went from A to Z. Now I’m going backwards. But it’s amazing what you find when you do that.”

He tells me about a guy named Alvin Batson, a repeat offender charged in 2008 with burglary, assault and battery, and grand theft after allegedly pepper-spraying a homeowner and burglarizing his house. The homeowner identified Batson in a photo lineup, and Batson confessed during a taped interrogation by a detective. When he read the case records, though, Arth noticed that the victim hadn’t identified Batson until he was shown the lineup three times. The detective also threatened “to return to Batson’s mother’s house with the SWAT team and tear the house apart in order to find the victim’s missing computer which might leave Batson’s mother homeless,” according to paperwork on file at the state attorney’s office. “I get to tear up a house today,” the detective said. “That’ll be fun.”

The assistant state attorney on the case called Batson’s interrogation “a creative police interview technique employing humorous exaggeration.” When Arth walked over to the state attorney’s office to insist that the confession was coerced, he was told that a judge would have to determine that. “Well, I teach it,” he tells me. “I teach interrogation. So I kind of know the state statutes.” In the end, the charges were dropped.. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 9:17 am

The Catholic Church’s protection policy for pedophiles continues

leave a comment »

Still the Catholic church protects its pedophiles. Laurie Goodstein reports in the NY Times on the latest pedophile to be whisked away to safety before a criminal trial could be held:

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — He was a familiar figure to the skinny shoeshine boys who work along the oceanfront promenade here. Wearing black track pants and a baseball cap pulled low over his balding head, they say, he would stroll along in the late afternoon and bring one of them down to the rocky shoreline or to a deserted monument for a local Catholic hero.

The boys say he gave them money to perform sexual acts. They called him “the Italian” because he spoke Spanish with an Italian accent.

It was only after he was spirited out of the country, the boys say, his picture splashed all over the local news media, that they learned his real identity: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, the Vatican’s ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

“He definitely seduced me with money,” said Francis Aquino Aneury, who says he was 14 when the man he met shining shoes began offering him increasingly larger sums for sexual acts. “I felt very bad. I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but I needed the money.”

The case is the first time that a top Vatican ambassador, or nuncio — who serves as a personal envoy of the pope — has been accused of sexual abuse of minors. It has sent shock waves through the Vatican and two predominantly Catholic countries that have only begun to grapple with clergy sexual abuse: the Dominican Republic and Poland, where Mr. Wesolowski was ordained by the Polish prelate who later became Pope John Paul II.

It has also created a test for Pope Francis, who has called child sexual abuse “such an ugly crime” and pledged to move the Roman Catholic Church into an era of “zero tolerance.” For priests and bishops who have violated children, he told reporters in May, “There are no privileges.”

Mr. Wesolowski has already faced the harshest penalty possible under the church’s canon law, short of excommunication: on June 27, he was defrocked by the Vatican, reducing him to the status of a layman. The Vatican, which as a city-state has its own judicial system, has also said it intends to try Mr. Wesolowski on criminal charges — the first time the Vatican has held a criminal trial for sexual abuse.

But far from settling the matter, the Vatican has stirred an outcry because it helped Mr. Wesolowski avoid criminal prosecution and a possible jail sentence in the Dominican Republic. Acting against its own guidelines for handling abuse cases, the church failed to inform the local authorities of the evidence against him, secretly recalled him to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.

The Vatican’s handling of the case shows both the changes the church has made in dealing with sexual abuse, and what many critics call its failures. When it comes to removing pedophiles from the priesthood, the Vatican is moving more assertively and swiftly than before. But as Mr. Wesolowski’s case suggests, the church continues to be reluctant to report people suspected of abuse to the local authorities and allow them to face justice in secular courts.

The Vatican says that because Mr. Wesolowski was a member of its diplomatic corps and a citizen of the Holy See, the case would be handled in Rome. But even many faithful Catholics in this nation, home to the oldest Catholic cathedral in the Americas, say they are unsettled that a Vatican official could have been using children for sex, yet was not arrested and tried in their own country.

“From the pure standpoint of justice, he should be tried in the country where the acts took place because the conditions for trying him will not be the same elsewhere,” said Antonio Medina Calcaño, dean of the faculty of law and political science of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo. “But all we can do is hope that the courts in the Vatican will treat this with the severity that it really deserves.” . . .

Continue reading.

I doubt that the Vatican courts—always conscious of “scandal” and the Church’s reputation—will act as would the courts in the Dominican Republic. It seems to me to simply be another example of the Catholic Church protecting pedophiles, not parishioners.

Later in the article:

A Dominican bishop, Victor Masalles, visiting Rome in late June, said in a Twitter message that he was surprised to see Mr. Wesolowski “strolling the Via della Scrofa,” in the city’s picturesque ancient center. He added, “The silence of the Church has hurt the people of God.”

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2014 at 8:47 am

Posted in Law, Religion

%d bloggers like this: