Later On

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

Archive for October 1st, 2014

A boy takes a backpack and spends 3 years in jail with no charges filed. Q: Is the boy white?

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Pretty clearly not. Here’s the story by Jennifer Gonnerman in the New Yorker. It begins:

In the early hours of Saturday, May 15, 2010, ten days before his seventeenth birthday, Kalief Browder and a friend were returning home from a party in the Belmont section of the Bronx. They walked along Arthur Avenue, the main street of Little Italy, past bakeries and cafés with their metal shutters pulled down for the night. As they passed East 186th Street, Browder saw a police car driving toward them. More squad cars arrived, and soon Browder and his friend found themselves squinting in the glare of a police spotlight. An officer said that a man had just reported that they had robbed him. “I didn’t rob anybody,” Browder replied. “You can check my pockets.”

The officers searched him and his friend but found nothing. As Browder recalls, one of the officers walked back to his car, where the alleged victim was, and returned with a new story: the man said that they had robbed him not that night but two weeks earlier. The police handcuffed the teens and pressed them into the back of a squad car. “What am I being charged for?” Browder asked. “I didn’t do anything!” He remembers an officer telling them, “We’re just going to take you to the precinct. Most likely you can go home.” Browder whispered to his friend, “Are you sure you didn’t do anything?” His friend insisted that he hadn’t.

At the Forty-eighth Precinct, the pair were fingerprinted and locked in a holding cell. A few hours later, when an officer opened the door, Browder jumped up: “I can leave now?” Instead, the teens were taken to Central Booking at the Bronx County Criminal Court.

Continue reading.

During his 3 years at Rikers Island he also spent time in solitary confinement. No charges. No indication that he had done anything wrong. Just locked up in jail from age 17 to age 20.

This is America today.

I’m hoping he gets a multi-million-dollar settlement when the dust clears. The NYPD seems completely out of control.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 9:24 am

I hope the British government must pay a whopping settlement for their illegal incarceration

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It seems as though Western democracies are all drifting toward strong, secretive central governments that do not obey the law in letter or in spirit. Here’s a recent example by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain in The Intercept:

Former Guantanamo detainee and War on Terror critic Moazzam Begg, who was arrested on dubious terror charges in February, is once again free. Earlier today, British authorities announced that charges against Begg had been dropped in full, and that he would shortly be released from Belmarsh Prison in London.

In a press statement regarding his release, West Midlands police said that:

New material has recently been disclosed to police and CPS, which has a significant impact on key pieces of evidence that underpinned the prosecution’s case….I understand this is going to raise many questions. However, explaining what this newly revealed information is would mean discussing other aspects of the case which would be unfair and inappropriate as they are no longer going to be tested in court. 

Begg had been jailed for the last seven months on allegations that he had attended a terrorist training camp during a 2012 visit to Syria. He has maintained that his visits were part of an investigation into Britain government involvement in the torture and rendition of War on Terror detainees, an investigation which was being conducted under the aegis of his detainee advocacy organization CAGE UK. As reported previously by The Intercept, far from being clandestine, Begg’s trip to Syria had in fact been conducted with the full knowledge and permission of MI5. Despite this, over a year after he came home from Syria, he found himself suddenly detained on allegations that he had engaged in terrorist activities while in the country.

From the start, it was clear that Begg’s arrest by British authorities was motivated by the government’s dislike for his advocacy rather than any actual criminality. As we wrote back in February when reporting on Begg’s arrest:

Begg has long been a vituperative critic of the British government’s conduct during the War on Terror but throughout this time he has always been a public figure under constant media and government scrutiny. The notion that he’d be able to engage in terrorism surreptitiously on a trip sanctioned by MI5 — then hide this for over a year — seems dubious in the extreme.

In the weeks before his arrest, Begg wrote that he had suffered escalating harassment from British authorities, something which he claimed was due to his “investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture.” In a cryptic Facebook post he wrote shortly before his arrest he would say: “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.”

In a statement to The Intercept, a spokesperson for CAGE said of the decision today: . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

Coupled with the time he endured under detention at Bagram airfield and Guantanamo Bay, Begg has now spent over three and a half years of his life behind bars, all without being convicted of anything. No allegation against him has ever been tried in court, and until recently no attempt has ever been made to even charge him. Nonetheless, he has been subject to repeated detention, harassment, and allegedly physical abuse.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 9:01 am

Posted in Government, Law

What agency is not allowing Obama to release Senate report on torture?

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Obama has said (repeatedly) that he will release the Senate’s report on the torture done by the CIA, but apparently the CIA is not going to allow him to do that. (I think the power relations are becoming clear over time, and Obama is subservient to the intelligence apparatus—the CIA, NSA, and that lot: they call the tune.)

And yet the American public, by an overwhelming majority, wants the report released—and, one assumes, with minimal redaction. But the Administration doesn’t work for the American public, as is becoming increasingly evident, and Obama continues to block the report even as he continues his savage campaign against whistleblowers and increases government secrecy at every turn—while stating (through Eric Holder) that we should all turn over our data to any government agency that happens to want it.

America is going in a terrible direction. Dan Froomkin writes at The Intercept:

According to a new poll, a sizeable majority of American voters believe CIA officials violated the constitutional system of checks and balances when they hacked into computers being used by Senate staffers investigating torture.

And by a two-to-one margin (54 percent to 25 percent, with 22 percent not sure) they believe that CIA Director John Brennan should resign on account of the misleading statements he made about the incident.

The Public Policy robo-poll of 898 registered voters was commissioned by the Constitution Project, a highly-respected non-partisan group that has been active in calling attention to the lack of accountability for the torture of detainees during the last administration.

The poll found overwhelming public support for release of a long-completed report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The report is said to disclose abuse that was more brutal, systematic and widespread than generally recognized, and to expose a pattern of deceit in the Bush administration’s descriptions of the program to Congress and the public.

But despite having been completed in December 2012, the report remains inaccessible to the public. Most recently, the White House and the CIA have proposed redactions that Senate intelligence committee chair Dianne Feinstein said effectively undermine its key findings.

Fully 69 percent of those polled said they support releasing a declassified version of the report “to establish the historical record and to find out more about what happened”; compared to 22 percent who chose the option of not making the report public “because the findings might be damaging or embarrassing”.

Perhaps most strikingly, those numbers were nearly identical across party lines — Democratic, Republican and independent.

Scott Roehm, senior counsel for the Constitution Project, told me that’s important “because of attempts to paint what has been an oversight exercise as a partisan one.”

“In our constitutional democracy, transparency and an informed public are core principles,” he said. “I think those are at issue here.” . . .

Continue reading.

I expect the decades ahead will have some interesting reading on the successes and failures of the Obama Administration, including his absolute refusal to obey the law as stated in the Convention Against Torture. This is outright lawbreaking, and he seems to be getting away with it, to his (and our) discredit.

From later in the article, an example of how Obama ignores the wishes of the public as well as the law:

Calls for Brennan’s ouster emerged quickly after Feinstein’s floor speech in March, describing a blatant violation of the principle that Congress conducts oversight over the executive branch, not vice versa. Brennan quickly issued an angry denial whose qualifications were widely overlooked. A CIA Inspector General’s report, whose conclusions were made public in July, confirmed Feinstein’s allegations.

I wrote in July that Brennan’s should be held accountable for his lies. Twenty open-government organizations wrote to Obama in August, urging him to ask Brennan to resign.

Obama, for his part, said in August that he has “full confidence” in Brennan.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 8:40 am

Nice Chrome extension to help with Netflix

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The Younger Daughter just pointed out this little extension. I’ve now installed it and will post again after I get some experience with it.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 7:24 am

Posted in Movies & TV, Software

Do science, on-line and real-time

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Rather than waiting on the glacially slow processes of journal publication and review, scientists are increasingly turning to social media to publish efforts to replicate studies—some of which cannot be replicated and clearly are the result of incompetence or fraud. This new initiative looks very good to me, just as having every citizen carry (in effect) a video camera to record interactions with law enforcement. Daniel Cossins reports in The Scientist:

Sometimes even the best-known stories have hidden subplots. This January, Nature published two papers describing an astonishing new way to make stem cells: simply grow blood cells from adult mice in acidic media.1,2 The researchers behind the work—a team from the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Japan and Harvard Medical School—called it stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency, or STAP. These stress-induced stem cells were even more malleable than induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and, even better, they could be produced without the addition of transcription factors. Naturally, the press was abuzz with the promise of STAP to accelerate stem cell research. But in the less well-lit corners of the Web, some were already raising doubts.

Leading the way was Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis. “I quickly had the feeling this might be entirely wrong,” he says, “and that’s pretty unsettling when it’s inNature.” On January 29, the day both papers went up online, Knoepfler posted a review of the research on his blog. “It just seems too good and too simple of a method to be true,” he wrote. He followed it up a week later with another post outlining five reasons to doubt the STAP results. Meanwhile, a team led by Ken Lee, a stem cell researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, was failing to replicate the results. “We tried it on various cells and none worked,” Lee recalls. He posted his results on ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists, and continued trying to produce STAP cells to no avail. “Now I was starting to get pissed off.”

Lee and Knoepfler weren’t the only ones with concerns. Knoepfler ran an online poll to gauge opinion, revealing rapidly dwindling confidence in STAP, and created a Web page where people could post results from their replication attempts. Lee penned a review detailing his results for ResearchGate’s brand-new Open Review site, and a Japanese blogger discussed specific problems with the papers’ figures. Commenters on PubPeer, a postpublication peer review website, raised further concerns. On February 14, RIKEN initiated its own investigation and, six weeks later, announced that Haruko Obokata, first author on both studies, was guilty of scientific misconduct. On July 2, Nature retracted the papers.

Knoepfler says social media played an influential role in righting the literature. “The momentum started on blogs and Twitter, and it took off from there,” he says. “I believe that without social media, right now the STAP papers wouldn’t have been retracted.”

The STAP saga—which took a tragic twist when Obokata’s supervisor at RIKEN, Yoshiki Sasai, committed suicide in August—is just the freshest example of scientists turning to blogs and social media to question and refute published findings. Back in 2011, University of British Columbia microbiologist Rosie Redfield made a splash when she live-blogged her attempts to replicate a study reporting the discovery of bacteria that could incorporate arsenic in place of phosphorus into their DNA. Beyond such high-profile cases, a small but growing band of scientist bloggers are hoping to accelerate research evaluation and make science more transparent. Ultimately, they argue, rapid-fire open critiques will enrich the scientific process.

“[Social media is] introducing a robust culture of community-driven postpublication peer review, and that’s hugely valuable,” says Chris Chambers, a neuroscientist at Cardiff University in the U.K. and a blogger for The Guardian. “It chips away at this idea that something must be true because it’s in a peer-reviewed journal and replaces it with the idea that your work is out there to be poked and prodded.”

Not all scientists are so enthusiastic [particularly, I imagine, those whose results cannot be replicated – LG].

Continue reading. It’s a long and worthwhile article. Later in the article:

Open-science enthusiasts will point to the rising numbers of retractions, cases of misconduct, and problems with reproducibility as evidence that research must be critically examined even after publication. “There is the wrong impression that [peer review is] infallible,” says Jonathan Eisen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Davis, who writes the Tree of Life blog. “That’s not how science should work. We should be evaluating things continuously, and I believe dynamic online discussion is the best way.”

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 7:17 am

Posted in Science, Technology

Attorney General asks tech companies to use insecure methods

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The Attorney General wants tech companies to provide backdoors in their encryption and other security so that law officers and criminals can more easily break into the devices and examine (and copy) your data. Craig Timberg reports on the idiotic proposal in the Washington Post:

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said on Tuesday that new forms of encryption capable of locking law enforcement officials out of popular electronic devices imperil investigations of kidnappers and sexual predators, putting children at increased risk.

“It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said at a conference on child sexual abuse, according to a text of his prepared remarks. “When a child is in danger, law enforcement needs to be able to take every legally available step to quickly find and protect the child and to stop those that abuse children. It is worrisome to see companies thwarting our ability to do so.”

In his comments, Holder became the highest government official to publicly chastise technology companies for developing systems that make it difficult for law enforcement officials to collect potential evidence, even when they have search warrants. Though he didn’t mention Apple andGoogle by name, his remarks followed their announcements this month of new smartphone encryption policies that have sparked a sharp government response, including from FBI Director James B. Comey last week. . .

Continue reading.

I do not know why Eric Holder is so opposed to personal privacy, and I have a difficult time understanding why he trusts government law enforcement so much, given the on-going reports of malfeasance by law officials.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 7:07 am

Mulcuto slant and a BBS shave

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I used my Mulcuto slant with a SuperMax Titanium blade this morning, together with a very good lather made by my Omega Pro 48 and Speick shaving soap. Very nice shave, finished with a splash of 4711 aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 October 2014 at 7:01 am

Posted in Shaving

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