Later On

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

Archive for November 13th, 2014

The privacy app for Android phones that’s taking on Google

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Well worth reading if you have an android phone. From the Motherboard article by Thomas Fox-Brewster:

Disconnect, a young San Franciscan startup, builds software than can cut off intrusive advertisers silently grabbing users’ data, and protect web activity with encryption. But the average Android user won’t have heard much about it. Not through Google at least, which has removed the tool from its Play store.

The startup isn’t backing down in its fight for people’s privacy, though. Over the past year, the young firm, which boasts ex-NSA engineer Patrick Jackson as its CTO, has been wrestling Google to get its app on the marketplace so more Android users can use it to protect themselves from government snoops and digital criminals.

It’s losing that fight. But it won’t let Google slow it down. Today, it has launched a completely refreshed app that does a lot to protect data: It encrypts communications, routes traffic through different servers across the globe, filters out more than 5,000 “invasive” services and visualises how tracking software takes information during web sessions and when running apps, allowing users to cut off digital tentacles reaching for their privates.

For a VPN software with lots of bells and whistles, it’s not too pricey either: the full desktop and phone application that covers up to three devices comes at $5 a month, or $50 a year. Some pieces will remain free, such as the tracking visualisation browser add-on. . .

Continue reading.

Full disclosure: I use Disconnect with my browsers. It’s free, and it provides an additional layer of security and blocks nuisances (tracking cookies, for example).

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 12:32 pm

Posted in NSA, Software, Techie toys

Former CIA detainees claim US torture investigators never interviewed them

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I think it’s pretty obvious that any investigations that were done by the Executive Branch regarding the various US programs of torture were conducted to cover-up the truth, not reveal it. Obama signaled this at the start of his first term with his declaration that he would not investigate any allegations regarding the previous administration, and indeed he has done all he can to prevent the truth from coming out.

But this story in The Guardian from Spencer Ackerman is still of interest:

As the US government prepares to defend its record on torture before a United Nations panel, five Libyan men once held without charge by the CIA say the main criminal investigation into allegations of detainee abuse never even interviewed them.

The Libyans’ accusation reopens controversy over the 2012 pre-election decision by the prosecutor in the case not to bring charges against anyone involved in CIA abuse – an episode the US State Department has held up as an example of its diligence in complying with international torture obligations.

On Wednesday, a United Nations committee in Geneva is scheduled to hear a US delegation outline recent measures Washington has taken to combat torture. It will be the first update the US has provided to the committee since 2006, when the CIA still operated its off-the-books “black site” prisons. Human rights campaigners who have seen the Obama administration repeatedly decline to deliver justice for US torture victims consider it a belated chance at ending what they consider to be impunity.

Among the committee’s requested submissions, issued in 2010, is a description of steps the US has taken to ensure torture claims against it are “promptly, impartially and thoroughly investigated”. The committee specifically asked for a status update about the Justice Department’s since-concluded torture inquiry.

That high-profile inquiry, conducted by assistant US attorney John Durham, wrapped in 2012 without bringing criminal charges against anyone involved in the deaths of two detainees in CIA custody. That decision, heralding the end of federal investigations for post-9/11 detainee abuse, was preceded by Durham’s 2011 announcement that he would not proceed past a “preliminary review” for 99 out of 101 cases of suspected CIA torture.

The State Department, in a 2013 written submission to the UN committee, referred to Durham’s team as “experienced professionals” that found the “admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”

But the Libyans say that neither Durham nor his staff “ever sought or requested our testimony”.

The five – Mohammed Ahmed Mohammed al-Shoroeiya, Khalid al-Sharif, Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, Saleh Hadiyah Abu Abdullah Di’iki and Mustafa Jawda al-Mehdi – wrote to committee secretary Patrice Gillibert in a 9 November letter urging Gillibert press the US delegation on the investigative omission.

All members of the now-defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an anti-Gaddafi terrorist group with murky ties to al-Qaida, the five spent between eight months and two years in CIA custody before being rendered back to Muammar Gaddafi’s prisons. One of them, Shoroeiya, alleges that the CIA waterboarded him in Afghanistan, although he is not one of the three people on whom the CIA has acknowledged using the controversial mock-drowning technique. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the story:

Durham’s apparent lack of interest in interviewing them “raises serious questions about the thoroughness and adequacy of the Durham investigation, whether other important witnesses were also not interviewed for that inquiry, and whether the US has complied with obligations under article 12” of the UN convention against torture, they wrote.

Through a representative at the US attorney’s office for Connecticut, Durham declined to comment to the Guardian. It is unknown if Durham interviewed any victims of CIA torture at all, but a lawyer for one of the alleged 9/11 co-conspirators held at Guantanamo Bay said Durham never interviewed his client.

“It’s an omission from their point of view,” said James Connell, attorney for Ammar al-Baluchi, who added that he was unaware of Dunham interviewing any of al-Baluchi’s co-defendants.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 12:23 pm

Maybe we’re making a fundamental attribution error in our judgment of those who failed to vote

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I’ve been critical of those who did not vote, assuming that the reason was that they didn’t care, lacked civic virtue, and so on. But then reports like this made me think that perhaps I’m making a fundamental attribution error regarding the reason. Wikipedia:

In social psychology, the fundamental attribution error, also known as the correspondence bias or attribution effect, is people’s tendency to place an undue emphasis on internal characteristics to explain someone else’s behavior in a given situation, rather than considering external factors. It does not explain interpretations of one’s own behavior, where situational factors are more easily recognized and can thus be taken into consideration. The flip side of this error is the actor–observer bias, in which people tend to overemphasize the role of a situation in their behaviors and underemphasize the role of their own personalities.

As a simple example, consider a situation where Alice, a driver, is about to pass through an intersection. Her light turns green and she begins to accelerate, but another car drives through the red light and crosses in front of her. The fundamental attribution error may lead her to think that the driver of the other car was an unskilled or reckless driver. This will be an error if the other driver had a good reason for running the light, such as rushing a patient to the hospital. If this is the case and Alice had been driving the other car, she would have understood that the situation called for speed at the cost of safety, but when seeing it from the outside she was inclined to believe that the behavior of the other driver reflected their fundamental nature (having poor driving skills or a reckless attitude).

The phrase was coined by Lee Ross[1] some years after a now classic experiment by Edward E. Jones and Victor Harris (1967).[2] Ross argued in a popular paper that the fundamental attribution error forms the conceptual bedrock for the field of social psychology. Jones wrote that he found Ross’ phrase “overly provocative and somewhat misleading”, and also joked: “Furthermore, I’m angry that I didn’t think of it first.”[3] Some psychologists, including Daniel Gilbert, have used the phrase “correspondence bias” for the fundamental attribution error.[3] Other psychologists have argued that the fundamental attribution error and correspondence bias are related but independent phenomena, with the former being a common explanation for the latter.[4]

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Daily life, Election

Hands-On With DJI’s New Inspire 1, the iPhone of Drones

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Very interesting article—and that drone does look cool.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:54 am

Posted in Techie toys, Technology

A way to avoid iTunes for iPhone 5 and 5s owners

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From the Cool Tools review:

The Mophie Space pack lets me avoid using iTunes. It’s a protective case for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s that contains a 1700mAh battery and 16GB of built-in storage. That’s enough for about 7 hours of video.

Transferring video files couldn’t be simpler. The storage shows up as a hard drive on your computers desktop when you connect your phone. It’s a simple matter to drag MP4 files (or any other kind of file) into the drive. Then, I can watch the movies using the Mophie Space app on my phone (it has its own player). The battery doubles the energy capacity of the phone, too, which means I can watch videos on a long flight and still have juice to summon Uber when I my plane lands.

The Mophie Space Pack also comes in handy when I’m on my computer and I come across an MP3 of a podcast or interview I want to listen to later. I just drag the file into the storage icon and it will be on my phone when I’m ready to listen.

The Wife hates iTunes, and I avoid it altogether.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:53 am

Posted in Technology

Starving Gazans of Protein: Israeli Navy destroys Palestinian Fishing Boat

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I don’t really see this action as “defending Israel.” It seems more aimed at killing Gazans, part of the ethnic cleansing that Israel seems to have embarked upon.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:50 am

The Pew Report: Republicans do not want cooperation with the President

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Interesting and not totally surprising:

Stand up to Obama

That’s from a very interesting report with quite a few charts. Obviously, conservatives are in favor of gridlock in Washington so long as Obama achieves nothing. Very odd attitude toward the US, I think.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:48 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Why the white working class hates Democrats

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Interesting note by Kevin Drum. It’s because Democrats support programs that help the poor.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:43 am

Posted in Politics

Killings by cops apparently going up; killings of cops going down

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“Apparently” because the data are poorly collected. Radley Balko notes in the Washingtn Post:

From USA Today:

The number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year — 461— was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report.

The justifiable homicide count, contained in the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, has become increasingly scrutinized in recent months as questions continue to be raised about the use of lethal force by law enforcement.

It’s the third straight year we’ve seen an increase. If you’ve been reading The Watch regularly, you’ll know that we hit that figure in the same year that killings of police officers reached a 50-year low. Last year also saw a drop in violent crime. There are about eight to nine killings by cops for every killing of a cop. (The FBI reported 48 felonious deaths of police officers in 2012, the last year for which data were available.)

The article also mentions another problem we’ve discussed here: It’s difficult to say just how much the figure is rising because police departments are historically bad at actually reporting this data.

University of Nebraska criminologist Samuel Walker said the incomplete nature of the data renders the recent spike in such deaths even more difficult to explain.

“It could be as simple as more departments are reporting,” Walker said.

The Nebraska criminologist has been among the most vocal advocates calling for an all-inclusive national database to closely track deadly force incidents involving police.

“It is irresponsible that we don’t have a complete set of numbers,” Walker said. “Whether the numbers are up, down or stable, this (national database) needs to be done. … This is a scandal.”

University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert, who has long studied police use of deadly force, said the latest number of justifiable homicides, while increasing, still likely represents a significant under-counting.

He said most major agencies have strongly supported close tracking of deadly force incidents. But he said the majority of police agencies in the country are small — with fewer than 50 officers — and their reporting practices involving such cases are not always uniform.

As FiveThirtyEight points out, unofficial attempts to compile a more thorough count of killings by police have put the figure much, much higher —as many as 1,700 since May 2013, and more than 900 so far in 2014.

Of course, one way to look at this story is to conclude that the cops are killing lots of bad guys, and that’s why both general violent crime and killings of cops are falling. That’s a convenient argument, because it justifies the use of lethal force by police whether they’re doing it more or less often, and whether crime is rising or falling.

One other point: . . .

Continue reading.

It’s good that the police are in less danger of being shot, but I am concerned that they are shooting more, particularly with the number shot to death on flimsy grounds—e.g., the Utah incident in which Darrien Hunt was shot six times in the back, fleeing from the police (whose report of what happened is contradicted by the autopsy results). He had done nothing wrong. He was carrying a toy sword, but Utah is an open-carry state, so even carrying a loaded firearm is perfectly okay, much less a toy sword.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 11:41 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Why cops shouldn’t fake being reporters.

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Jack Shafer has a well-argued column at Reuters on the dangers of allowing law-enforcement officials to pose as journalists, but the bug to some extent is a feature: the security apparatus has always had a jaundiced view of the free press, which tends to print things the security apparatus (the second government, in Glennon’s terms) wants not to be printed: not only secrets, but also reports of wrong-doing, incompetence, and embarrassing pratfalls. The security apparatus is of the opinion that all stories should be cleared with the government before being published, and a free press not only will not do that, it continues to report screw-ups by the security apparatus.

So if a law-enforcement official can undermine faith in the press (and make journalists’ jobs harder) by pretending to be a reporter, that’s good, in their eyes. Much easier than waging the long and costly legal persecution of reporters, as the Obama Administration is doing.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 9:22 am

Posted in Law Enforcement, Media

How and why a gun advocate’s view of the 2nd Amendment changed

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Very interesting post by Philip Gulley in Salon:

Noah Pozner did nothing to change my mind, except die. Before he died, I believed a few sensible gun laws could save children like Noah Pozner. After he died, after he and his Sandy Hook classmates were mowed down by a man with a gun, I changed my mind.

After he died, I realized an old custom had to die with him, so a nobler one could take its place.  Before Noah Pozner died, I thought there was nothing wrong with the Second Amendment a little common sense couldn’t fix.  After he died, I’ve come to believe “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” no longer promotes our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but daily threatens them.  How free are we when more people are shot and killed each year in America than populate the towns in which many of us live?  How free are we when a backpack that unfolds into a bulletproof covering is a must-have item for schoolchildren?

“A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”

While I concede that a well-regulated militia might be necessary to the security of a free state, that role is now ably served by our military, professionally trained and highly disciplined, drawn from the ranks of our families and friends, from whom we have nothing to fear. We no longer need Minutemen. The British have not surrounded Concord. This is not “Independence Day” and we’re not under alien attack. I cannot imagine any circumstance in which our government would urge us to arm ourselves in defense of our country. Our nation has outgrown its need for an armed citizenry. The disadvantages of widespread gun ownership far outweigh any perceived advantage. Ask the parents of Noah Pozner. Ask African-American residents of Ferguson, Missouri. Ask what America’s love affair with guns has meant to them.

The merit of a position can be gauged by the temperament of its supporters, and these days the NRA reminds me of the folks who packed the courtroom of the Scopes monkey trial, fighting to preserve a worldview no thoughtful person espoused. This worship of guns grows more ridiculous, more difficult to sustain, and they know it, hence their theatrics, their parading through Home Depot and Target, rifles slung over shoulders. Defending themselves, they say.  From what, from whom?  I have whiled away many an hour at Home Depots and Targets and never once come under attack.

They remind me of the Confederates who fought to defend the indefensible, sacrificing the lives of others in order to preserve some dubious right they alone valued. They would rather die, armed to the teeth, than live in a nation free of guns and their bitter harvest.You can have my gun when you pry it from around my cold, dead fingers, their bumper stickers read. How empty their lives must be if life without a gun is not worth living.

The first thing Hitler did was confiscate guns, the gun lovers warn, a bald lie if ever there was one. But let’s suspend reality and imagine it was true. Where is the Hitler in Canada, in England, in Sweden, in every other civilized nation whose citizens have resolved to live without guns? Let the NRA trot out its tired canard about the housewife whose husband thoughtfully armed her, who shot the intruder and saved her family. I will tell you about the father who mistook his son for a burglar and shot him dead, about the man who rigged a shotgun in his barn to discourage thievery and accidentally slew his precious little girl when she entered the barn to play with her kittens.

What drives this fanaticism? Can I venture a guess? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 9:08 am

Posted in Daily life, Guns

Low-carb diets help combat epilepsy

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Very interesting post, particularly for anyone who is or knows a patient. I was surprised to learn that a low-carb diet is a well-established and long-time treatment for epilepsy.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 9:05 am

Not a good sign: Internal Survey Shows the Red Cross’ Own Employees Doubt the Charity’s Ethics

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When those in a position to know the most about what’s going on strongly doubt the ethics of Red Cross management, I feel much more justified in my decision to discontinue contributions to that organization. It has betrayed its mission. Justin Elliott reports at ProPublica:

A survey of American Red Cross employees shows a crisis of trust in the charity’s leadership and deep internal doubts about the Red Cross’ commitment to ethical conduct.

A summary of the survey results, obtained by ProPublica and NPR, was released internally in September. The survey was completed by a bit more than half of the Red Cross’ roughly 25,000 employees.

In response to the statement, “I trust the senior leadership of the American Red Cross,” just 39 percent responded favorably.

In response to the statement, “The American Red Cross shows a commitment to ethical business decisions and conduct,” 61 percent responded favorably. That means about 4 in 10 respondents doubt the ethics of the venerable charity.

“Candidly, the results could have been stronger,” Chief Executive Gail McGovern acknowledged in an email to employees. She also called the Red Cross’ score on ethics “very high” and identified ethics as one of “our strengths.”

During McGovern’s six-year tenure, the charity has faced periodic budget deficits and is in the midst of the latest in a series of layoffs. The Red Cross has seen shrinking revenue from its blood business and rising pension costs. In the last year, the charity’s fundraising efforts have dwindled without a large national disaster to help bring in donations. The charity finished its last fiscal year with a $70 million deficit and 1,200 workers are expected to lose their jobs over the next year.

Also, ProPublica and NPR reported last month that officials who helped lead the charity’s response to Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Isaac believed they were undermined by senior leadership. Resources were diverted for public relations purposes by national headquarters, hurting the relief efforts. Internal assessments concluded the charity wasn’t prepared to effectively respond to a large storm.

Current and former officials said the Red Cross’ relief efforts also suffered from attrition in its ranks of experienced volunteer disaster responders, many driven away by a series of reorganizations by McGovern, who has moved to centralize decision-making.

The employee survey, which was conducted by IBM, notes that other companies scored better on the questions about trust. About 20 percent of respondents at other companies expressed concern about their organization’s ethics, compared with nearly 40 percent for the Red Cross survey.

Asked about the survey, Red Cross spokeswoman Suzy DeFrancis said it was the first of its kind for the charity. . .

Continue reading. Reading between the lines, it sounds like some of the problem is the mindset of the new CEO, who seems to view the Red Cross as a normal profit-oriented corporation with similar goals.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 9:02 am

Posted in Philanthropy

BBS with ATT R1 and Soap Commander

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SOTD 13 Nov 2014

Extremely good shave. Soap Commander—and I love the retro name and logo—lathered quite well, and I liked (but cannot describe) the fragrance. Mr Pomp (not the Frank Shaving knockoff) continues to be a favorite brush.

My ATT R1 with their handle of middle size did a fine job with a Personna Lab Blue blade. I really am finding that a good criterion for an “efficient” razor is that large swathes of your face is BBS after the second pass, so the final, ATG pass is more or less polishing and touch-up. This razor is efficient in that sense (for me: you may find that M1 or H1 works better for you), and it is also extremely comfortable, in a precise sort of way. A “no-slop” razor.

A dab of D.R. Harris After Shaving Milk finishes the shave. I can’t identify the fragrance, but I like it. (I saw one mention of it as being rose, but it sure doesn’t smell like rose to me.) UPDATE: I smelled it again. It’s rose. Duh.

Today I’m cooking Yucatán Pork Stew with Ancho Chiles and Lime Juice for dinner.

Written by Leisureguy

13 November 2014 at 8:57 am

Posted in Shaving

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