Archive for January 2015
Interesting that, although 4 officers saw that the shooting was totally unjustified, the department still protects the policeman who shot the man to death. The police protect their own. Tom Jackman reports in the Washington Post:
John B. Geer stood with his hands on top of the storm door of his Springfield, Va., townhouse and calmly said to four Fairfax County police officers with guns pointed at him: “I don’t want anybody to get shot . . . .And I don’t wanna get shot, ’cause I don’t want to die today.”
But as one officer tried to ease Geer through the standoff, another officer, Adam D. Torres, shot and killed Geer from 17 feet away, telling investigators that he saw Geer move his hands to his waist and thought he might be reaching for a weapon, according to newly released documents from the county.
The other three officers, and a lieutenant watching from a distance, said they saw no such thing, the documents show.
How and why Geer died that afternoon in August 2013 after police responded to a domestic dispute at his home have remained a mystery, as police and prosecutors have declined to comment on the case for 17 months. But Friday night, under a court order obtained by lawyers for the Geer family, Fairfax released more than 11,000 pages of documents that shed new light on the police shooting.
The other officers contradicted Torres’s story, all agreeing that Geer had his hands above his shoulders, did not move them to his waist and was unarmed when he was shot.
The documents also show that Torres was involved in an argument with his wife in the 16 minutes leading up to his arrival at Geer’s home that may have caused him to miss key facts about Geer and the situation at the townhouse. He also did not issue a warning to Geer before he pulled the trigger.“When the shot happened, his hands were up,” Officer Rodney Barnes, who had been talking to Geer at the moment of the shooting, told investigators that evening. “I’m not here to throw [Torres] under the bus or anything like that, but I didn’t see what he saw.”
The documents, which include police investigative reports, transcripts, timelines, photos and dispatcher audiotapes, indicate that Torres said he considered Geer “a credible threat,” because he had placed a holstered gun at his feet at the beginning of the standoff. But the other three officers told investigators that they never considered firing at Geer.
“It’s not good,” Officer David Parker, who was crouching 15 feet behind Torres, told investigators. “He killed that guy and he didn’t have to.”
But Torres said he thought Geer could have had another weapon hidden at his waist. “It was not accidental,” Torres told investigators. “No, it was justified. I have no doubt about that at all. I don’t feel sorry for shooting the guy at all.”
The files also reveal for the first time why the Fairfax prosecutor shifted the case to the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria: an internal affairs investigation into a loud, angry “meltdown” Torres had in the Fairfax County Courthouse. In that incident, five months before the Geer shooting, Torres repeatedly cursed at an assistant county prosecutor and stormed out of the courthouse, according to the prosecutor’s statement included in the released documents.
But county police refused to make the internal affairs file available to Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh. A frustrated Morrogh has said he passed the investigation to the Justice Department because he was unable to get anywhere with the Fairfax police department. [A policeman shot and killed someone who was unarmed with his hands raised, but the department still protects him: that is the situation with the police in the US today. – LG]
Mike Lieberman, an attorney for the Geer family, said: “If this was a similar situation involving two ordinary citizens, there is little doubt that any individual who shot an unarmed man who was holding his hands up in the air and claiming that he did not want to hurt anyone would have been arrested and charged.“Within days of the shooting, the police department, at the highest levels, knew of the gross discrepancies between Officer Torres’s version of the events and the accounts provided by every other eyewitness.” . . .
Read this. Decorated police officers. And note that the city fought fiercely to avoid paying compensation to the victim’s family. Disgusting.
What is that? Becky Ferreira explains at Motherboard:
The geometric beauty of the Fibonacci sequence is frequently expressed in nature, from the fractal growth of plants to the spiral arms of galaxies. It’s no surprise that such an elemental pattern in the universe has also inspired countless works of art, including, most recently, a series of mesmerizing moving sculptures designed and 3D-printed by artist John Edmark. The final result was posted this week on Vimeo, and it’s definitely worthy of a “whoa, dude.”
Edmark, who teaches design at Stanford University, created these trippy visuals with the Fibonacci sequence very much in mind. “These are 3D printed sculptures designed to animate when spun under a strobe light,” Edmark explained in the video’s summary.
“The placement of the appendages is determined by the same method nature uses in pinecones and sunflowers,” he continued. “The rotation speed is synchronized to the strobe so that one flash occurs every time the sculpture turns 137.5º—the golden angle. If you count the number of spirals on any of these sculptures you will find that they are always Fibonacci numbers.”
So basically, the extra detail provided by the strobe light and shutter speed creates an optical illusion of lifelike motion from the sculptures. Even without the animation enhancement, the sculpture would still produce an uncanny mobility, but slowing the process down makes the piece look even more detailed and biological. . .
Very intriguing article in the New Yorker by Alec Wilkinson about Yitang Zhang, “a solitary, part-time calculus teacher at the University of New Hampshire who received several prizes, including a MacArthur award in September, for solving a problem that had been open for more than a hundred and fifty years.”
From the article:
Prime numbers have so many novel qualities, and are so enigmatic, that mathematicians have grown fetishistic about them. Twin primes are two apart. Cousin primes are four apart, sexy primes are six apart, and neighbor primes are adjacent at some greater remove. From “Prime Curios!,” by Chris Caldwell and G. L. Honaker, Jr., I know that an absolute prime is prime regardless of how its digits are arranged: 199; 919; 991. A beastly prime has 666 in the center. The number 700666007 is a beastly palindromic prime, since it reads the same forward and backward. A circular prime is prime through all its cycles or formulations: 1193, 1931, 9311, 3119. There are Cuban primes, Cullen primes, and curved-digit primes, which have only curved numerals—0, 6, 8, and 9. A prime from which you can remove numbers and still have a prime is a deletable prime, such as 1987. An emirp is prime even when you reverse it: 389, 983. Gigantic primes have more than ten thousand digits, and holey primes have only digits with holes (0, 4, 6, 8, and 9). There are Mersenne primes; minimal primes; naughty primes, which are made mostly from zeros (naughts); ordinary primes; Pierpont primes; plateau primes, which have the same interior numbers and smaller numbers on the ends, such as 1777771; snowball primes, which are prime even if you haven’t finished writing all the digits, like 73939133; Titanic primes; Wagstaff primes; Wall-Sun-Sun primes; Wolstenholme primes; Woodall primes; and Yarborough primes, which have neither a 0 nor a 1.
Robbie Gonzalez writes at io9:
Roald Dahl – author of such books as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda – lost his eldest daughter, Olivia, to measles in 1962. Twenty-six years later, he penned a cogent and gut-wrenching plea to parents, urging them have their children vaccinated against the disease,
In light of measles’ recent resurgence in the United States, Dahl’s take on the seriousness of the disease, the importance of immunization, and the inanity of refusing to vaccinate “out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear,” is as relevant today as it was when it appeared, in 1988, in a pamphlet published by the Sandwell Health Authority.
Measles: A Dangerous Illness
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.
On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.
It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.
Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.
LET THAT SINK IN.
Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.
So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?
They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.
So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.
The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.
Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.
Dahl’s letter remains eerily appropriate today, in light of the ongoing and expanding measles outbreak centered in California. More than 100 cases have now been confirmed in 14 states across the U.S., including Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Washington state. . .
From a report in the NY Times:
in California, anti-vaccine parents whose children have endured bouts of whooping cough and chickenpox largely defended their choice to raise their children on natural foods, essential oils and no vaccinations.
“There is absolutely no reason to get the shot,” said Crystal McDonald, whose 16-year-old daughter was one of 66 students sent home from Palm Desert High School for the next two weeks because they did not have full measles immunizations.
I don’t know whether Crystal McDonald is in fact as stupid as a box of rocks, but the emphasized statement is obviously, screamingly false. She claims to have done research into the issue, but in all her research she never noticed one single reason to get a vaccination and be immunized against the illness. This is a woman who totally fails the parenting test because she simply cannot read or reason.
Cora Currier reports at The Intercept:
The first word of Guantánamo Diary is a black bar.
The book, in which Guantanamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi tells of his odyssey through overseas prisons and his torture and abuse by the US and its counterterrorism allies, is pockmarked with redactions left by military censors.
The diary was finally published last week, more than nine years after Slahi wrote it, and it jumped onto bestseller lists. But the details of how his lawyers fought for its release are still under seal – highlighting the secrecy that still surrounds everything to do with the U.S. military prison and the 122 men who remain there.
“The starting point is that everything that Mohamedou says, like anything that any Guantanamo detainee says, is considered classified and has to be cleared by the government,” said Hina Shamsi, the director of the National Security Project at the American Civil Liberties Union, who was involved in the negotiations for the manuscript’s release.
Slahi, a 44-year-old Mauritanian educated in Germany, was rendered by the CIA to prison in Jordan in late 2001, then held by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The government claimed that Slahi had been an al Qaeda recruiter. He admits that he went to Afghanistan in 1990 to fight against the communist government [a fight, it should be noted, actively supported by the US with weapons and money—that is, he was in effect fighting on behalf of the US. – LG]; his brother-in-law was an adviser to Osama Bin Laden; and he’d met one of the 9/11 plotters in Germany. But Slahi maintains that he’d had nothing to do with al Qaeda since 1992, and the U.S. has never charged him with a crime.
Slahi began to write his memoir in the summer of 2005, soon after he first met with attorneys. But, consistent with its policy of censoring communications from detainees, the government refused to approve it for release: Instead, the manuscript sat in a facility near Washington D.C., off-limits to anyone without the right security clearance. His attorneys, Shamsi said, fought to get it declassified, but that litigation remains under seal. Once they obtained an unclassified version, it could still only be read by Slahi’s legal team. It took further negotiations to get the government to approve it for public release.
By the time the editor Larry Siems got hold of the manuscript in 2012, volumes of information about Slahi’s case had come into the public record. In 2006, the government released transcripts from hearings evaluating prisoners’ detention status, Slahi’s among them. Reports from the Justice Department and the Senate Armed Services Committee detailed his interrogation. Documents from a federal court challenge revealed aspects of the government’s intelligence against him.
Siems was able to cross-reference these materials to establish the chronology of Slahi’s narrative, in which all dates have been redacted.
For instance, Slahi writes:
“He dropped me on the dirty floor. The room was dark as ebony. [Redacted] started playing a track very loudly—I mean very loudly. The song was, “Let the bodies hit the floor.” I might never forget that song. At the same time, [redacted] turned on some colored blinkers that hurt the eyes. “If you fucking fall asleep, I’m gonna hurt you, he said.”
The Senate report recounts a July 8, 2003 session where Slahi was “exposed to variable lighting patterns and rock music, to the tune of Drowning Pool’s ‘Let the Bodies Hit [the] Floor.”
“He’s a remarkably accurate historian of his own experience. His account just lines up with publicly available information,” said Siems.
Some of Slahi’s lawyers have security clearance, and could read the full manuscript, but they are barred from talking about what might be behind the redactions. “These were not conversations that I could have with them,” said Siems. . .
US conduct has been illegal, immoral, and shameful, and saying that terrorists are even worse is scarcely an excuse. Much of the US conduct is strongly reminiscent of the Soviet gulag and torture chambers of the KGB. And none who were responsible, from the hands-on torturers and murders to those in the White House and CIA who ordered the actions, have faced any accountability, a decision solely due to Barack Obama, a man who protects torturers and murders and punishes those who try to reveal what the US has done.
Later in that report:
For Larry Siems, censorship is at the core of Slahi’s story, and while the redactions sometimes impede his narrative, they serve a literary function as well.
“Secrecy was imposed in order for abuse to happen, and then more secrecy was imposed in order to cover it up,” said Siems. “The redactions are like the fingerprints of that longstanding censorship regime.”
The redactions often appear to cover up details of the accusations leveled against Slahi, and the questions asked of him during interrogations. That gives the impression that the book elides the murky parts of his case, Siems says, when in fact, “he’s really open and transparent about the charges against him. It looks like information is being withheld but it’s not him that’s doing it.”
What a morning: printer failure, trips to Staples, searching HP’s amazingly unhelpful Website for support info, etc. Frustrating, but thank heavens I was doing it on the good mood of a great shave.
I picked my Monarch brush, and my new Wholly Kaw Fougère Bouquet shaving soap made a really good lather. I started with a dampish brush, loaded for a few seconds, added a driblet of water, and loaded more—and the lather was thick and creamy: photogenic lather (and very effective—not just a pretty face).
WolfmanRazors.com makes also the BBS-1 razor for Los Angeles Shaving Soap Company, but his own line is a little different.
That’s the BBS-1 on the left and the Wolfman WR1-SB on the right. Note the interesting knurling patterns: not the standard diamond chequering.
The first shave with the BBS-1 was slightly harsh, with the WR1-SB totally comfortable—but I had used different blades. Today I loaded the BBS-1 with the same blade as the WR1-SB, a Voskhod, and compared the two.
Total comfort from the BBS-1: a different blade can make a big difference, so keep that in mind when you get a new razor. Both razors were in the very comfortable, very efficient category, and I got a BBS result.
Both razors are quite good, and you quickly learn each, unconsciously making appropriate angle adjustments as needed. But definitely always do renewed blade exploration with a new razor. If you don’t, you may not realize how good the new razor is.
I also got the sample of Wholly Kaw’s Fougère Bouquet aftershave. I sprayed some in the palm of my hand and applied. Wonderful fragrance—the soap’s fragrance was good but a little on the light side, I thought. But the aftershave was good, if somewhat heavy on the menthol for me. I am not one who enjoys seeing just how much menthol I can stand. Menthol, for me, is definitely in the “less is more” category. The aftershaves I like that have menthol have just enough so that you’re not sure it does have menthol. It’s cooling, but just slightly. So I’m a menthol wimp.
Still, I love the fragrance, and I imagine menthol fans will like the hit of cold.
Great shave, and just as well—it kept my mood level during the printer struggle.