Later On

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

Archive for January 21st, 2015

Interesting point: Why the Energy Selloff Is So Dangerous to the U.S. Economy

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Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Business

Mideast tensions doubtless ratcheted up

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Powder keg awaiting spark, I fear. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for error.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 5:16 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

Extremely hydrophobic surfaces

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That’s from this article.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 3:22 pm

Posted in Science, Technology

Interesting attitude change: The U.S. is now more worried about unpasteurized milk than marijuana

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Here’s the story.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Drug laws

Spies Among Us: How Community Outreach Programs To Muslims Blur Lines Between Outreach And Intelligence

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Very interesting article by Cora Currier in The Intercept:

Last May, after getting a ride to school with his dad, 18-year-old Abdullahi Yusuf absconded to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to board a flight to Turkey. There, FBI agents stopped Yusuf and later charged him with conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization—he was allegedly associated with another Minnesota man believed to have gone to fight for the Islamic State in Syria.

To keep other youth from following Yusuf’s path, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger recently said that the federal government would be launching a new initiative to work with Islamic community groups and promote after-school programs and job training–to address the “root causes” of extremist groups’ appeal. “This is not about gathering intelligence, it’s not about expanding surveillance or any of the things that some people want to claim it is,” Luger said.

Luger’s comments spoke to the concerns of civil liberties advocates, who believe that blurring the line between engagement and intelligence gathering could end up with the monitoring of innocent individuals. If past programs in this area are any guide, those concerns are well founded.

Documents obtained by attorneys at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and shared with the Intercept, show that previous community outreach efforts in Minnesota–launched in 2009 in response to the threat of young Americans joining the al-Qaeda-linked militia al-Shabab, in Somalia—were, in fact, conceived to gather intelligence.

A grant proposal from the St. Paul Police Department to the Justice Department, which the Brennan Center obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request to the FBI, lays out a plan in which Somali-speaking advocates would hold outreach meetings with community groups and direct people toward the Police Athletic League and programs at the YWCA. The proposal says that “the team will also identify radicalized individuals, gang members, and violent offenders who refuse to cooperate with our efforts.”

“It’s startling how explicit it was – ‘You don’t want to join the Police Athletic League? You sound like you might join al-Shabab!’” said Michael Price, an attorney with the Brennan Center. . .

Continue reading.

It’s as if in your regular high school some of your teachers were, unbeknownst to any students, undercover cops, looking from that perspective at them and what they do—and of course, keeping a detailed dossier on all activities, with the ability through NSA to get all the digital communications (including telephone) on any student they wanted, without restriction, since they can do this merely on suspicion, and of course they control directly their level of suspicion, even if the “suspect” has yet to do anything. And, of course, suspects can be detained. And tortured. And those who like to torture now know that they can get away with it if they can fit it into a government-sanctioned program.

I would imagine that the CIA these days has a different level of attraction for those morally repelled by torture and those who think it might be interesting—and if the composition of the applicant pool changes, I would imagine it would move the CIA in the torture direction. And why not? There’s no punishment in the US for government officials to torture people. Indeed, you get promoted, as in the case of Alfreda Bikowsky. So you start to see this sort of employee (and here’s another take). And you get people willing to torture someone in order to elicit a false confession to push the US into invading Iraq—a step that was truly catastrophic, whose damage is still playing out. Certainly ISIS is a direct consequence of the the nation-destruction the US wrought. “Nation-building,” my ass. We’ve really destroyed quite a few of the nations we’ve touched, or, if not destroyed, badly damaged. Vietnam. Afghanistan. Iraq. Yemen.

And of course the techniques the CIA were using were built on the kind of torture Americans might face by North Koreans or North Vietnamese, torture that was quite deliberately designed to elicit false confessions, and among the purposes of SERE training was helping soldiers resist making a false confession because the impulse to do so would be almost irresistible. So the CIA was (probably deliberately) “interrogating” prisoners (some of whom were  totally innocent) by using techniques guaranteed, more or less, to produce false confessions. Does anyone else see that this makes no sense whatsoever?

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 1:27 pm

When people in politics start to lose their grasp of reality

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In showbiz, I’m told, many great downfalls have come about through starting to believe one’s own press releases: the resulting loss of a sense of reality leads to some spectacular flame-outs. The obvious symptoms are arrogance, exaggerated sense of entitlement (pretty common), over-confidence in one’s capabilities, particularly in judgment and decision-making, and very prone to the Dunning-Kruger effect.

Apparently the equivalent curse is politics is to start believing so intensely in what you are saying—getting it over—that you unconsciously start to think that making a speech can somehow remake reality. It fortunately doesn’t.


Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 12:56 pm

Can local police really shoot whom they want and face no real accountability? We’ll see.

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This story includes a video that I admit I could not bring myself to watch. I predict, based on many past findings, that an internal investigation (the police department investigating itself) will return a finding of “shooting was justified” because, hey, you never know when you may need a little help yourself—and it’s one of us…. Independent investigators seldom get involved, though the FBI seems to be waking up. But I don’t put much faith in the FBI: such shootings as this have been going on for decades, and the FBI does not even collect the data. That shows the shallowness of their concern.

We’ll see. But I have a strong sense that local police in the US can now kill citizens not only without facing any real accountability: a few weeks paid administrative leave, and that’s the punishment.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 12:49 pm

Consciousness: The Hard Problem

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Very interesting article by Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian—and let me add: it’s a long article, but it’s very interesting, and he provides good summaries of various points of view. Very intriguing. It begins:

One spring morning in Tucson, Arizona, in 1994, an unknown philosopher named David Chalmers got up to give a talk on consciousness, by which he meant the feeling of being inside your head, looking out – or, to use the kind of language that might give a neuroscientist an aneurysm, of having a soul. Though he didn’t realise it at the time, the young Australian academic was about to ignite a war between philosophers and scientists, by drawing attention to a central mystery of human life – perhaps the central mystery of human life – and revealing how embarrassingly far they were from solving it.

The scholars gathered at the University of Arizona – for what would later go down as a landmark conference on the subject – knew they were doing something edgy: in many quarters, consciousness was still taboo, too weird and new agey to take seriously, and some of the scientists in the audience were risking their reputations by attending. Yet the first two talks that day, before Chalmers’s, hadn’t proved thrilling. “Quite honestly, they were totally unintelligible and boring – I had no idea what anyone was talking about,” recalled Stuart Hameroff, the Arizona professor responsible for the event. “As the organiser, I’m looking around, and people are falling asleep, or getting restless.” He grew worried. “But then the third talk, right before the coffee break – that was Dave.” With his long, straggly hair and fondness for all-body denim, the 27-year-old Chalmers looked like he’d got lost en route to a Metallica concert. “He comes on stage, hair down to his butt, he’s prancing around like Mick Jagger,” Hameroff said. “But then he speaks. And that’s when everyone wakes up.”

The brain, Chalmers began by pointing out, poses all sorts of problems to keep scientists busy. How do we learn, store memories, or perceive things? How do you know to jerk your hand away from scalding water, or hear your name spoken across the room at a noisy party? But these were all “easy problems”, in the scheme of things: given enough time and money, experts would figure them out. There was only one truly hard problem of consciousness, Chalmers said. It was a puzzle so bewildering that, in the months after his talk, people started dignifying it with capital letters – the Hard Problem of Consciousness – and it’s this: why on earth should all those complicated brain processes feel like anything from the inside? Why aren’t we just brilliant robots, capable of retaining information, of responding to noises and smells and hot saucepans, but dark inside, lacking an inner life? And how does the brain manage it? How could the 1.4kg lump of moist, pinkish-beige tissue inside your skull give rise to something as mysterious as the experience of being that pinkish-beige lump, and the body to which it is attached?

What jolted Chalmers’s audience from their torpor was how he had framed the question. “At the coffee break, I went around like a playwright on opening night, eavesdropping,” Hameroff said. “And everyone was like: ‘Oh! The Hard Problem! The Hard Problem! That’s why we’re here!’” Philosophers had pondered the so-called “mind-body problem” for centuries. But Chalmers’s particular manner of reviving it “reached outside philosophy and galvanised everyone. It defined the field. It made us ask: what the hell is this that we’re dealing with here?”

Two decades later, we know an astonishing amount about the brain: you can’t follow the news for a week without encountering at least one more tale about scientists discovering the brain region associated with gambling, or laziness, or love at first sight, or regret – and that’s only the research that makes the headlines. Meanwhile, the field of artificial intelligence – which focuses on recreating the abilities of the human brain, rather than on what it feels like to be one – has advanced stupendously. But like an obnoxious relative who invites himself to stay for a week and then won’t leave, the Hard Problem remains. When I stubbed my toe on the leg of the dining table this morning, as any student of the brain could tell you, nerve fibres called “C-fibres” shot a message to my spinal cord, sending neurotransmitters to the part of my brain called the thalamus, which activated (among other things) my limbic system. Fine. But how come all that was accompanied by an agonising flash of pain? And what is pain, anyway?

Questions like these, which straddle the border between science and philosophy, make some experts openly angry. They have caused others to argue that conscious sensations, such as pain, don’t really exist, no matter what I felt as I hopped in anguish around the kitchen; or, alternatively, that plants and trees must also be conscious. The Hard Problem has prompted arguments in serious journals about what is going on in the mind of a zombie, or – to quote the title of a famous 1974 paper by the philosopher Thomas Nagel – the question “What is it like to be a bat?” Some argue that the problem marks the boundary not just of what we currently know, but of what science could ever explain. On the other hand, in recent years, a handful of neuroscientists have come to believe that it may finally be about to be solved – but only if we are willing to accept the profoundly unsettling conclusion that computers or the internet might soon become conscious, too.

Next week, the conundrum will move further into public awareness with the opening of Tom Stoppard’s new play, The Hard Problem, at the National Theatre – the first play Stoppard has written for the National since 2006, and the last that the theatre’s head, Nicholas Hytner, will direct before leaving his post in March. The 77-year-old playwright has revealed little about the play’s contents, except that it concerns the question of “what consciousness is and why it exists”, considered from the perspective of a young researcher played by Olivia Vinall. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Stoppard also clarified a potential misinterpretation of the title. “It’s not about erectile dysfunction,” he said.

Stoppard’s work has long focused on grand, existential themes, so the subject is fitting: when conversation turns to the Hard Problem, even the most stubborn rationalists lapse quickly into musings on the meaning of life. Christof Koch, the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, and a key player in the Obama administration’s multibillion-dollar initiative to map the human brain, is about as credible as neuroscientists get. But, he told me in December: “I think the earliest desire that drove me to study consciousness was that I wanted, secretly, to show myself that it couldn’t be explained scientifically. I was raised Roman Catholic, and I wanted to find a place where I could say: OK, here, God has intervened. God created souls, and put them into people.” Koch assured me that he had long ago abandoned such improbable notions. Then, not much later, and in all seriousness, he said that on the basis of his recent research he thought it wasn’t impossible that his iPhone might have feelings.

* * *

By the time Chalmers delivered his speech in Tucson, science had been vigorously attempting to ignore the problem of consciousness for a long time. The source of the animosity dates back to the 1600s, when René Descartes identified the dilemma that would tie scholars in knots for years to come. On the one hand, Descartes realised, nothing is more obvious and undeniable than the fact that you’re conscious. In theory, everything else you think you know about the world could be an elaborate illusion cooked up to deceive you – at this point, present-day writers invariably invoke The Matrix – but your consciousness itself can’t be illusory. On the other hand, this most certain and familiar of phenomena obeys none of the usual rules of science. It doesn’t seem to be physical. It can’t be observed, except from within, by the conscious person. It can’t even really be described. The mind, Descartes concluded, must be made of some special, immaterial stuff that didn’t abide by the laws of nature; it had been bequeathed to us by God.

This religious and rather hand-wavy position, known as Cartesian dualism, remained the governing assumption into the 18th century and the early days of modern brain study. But it was always bound to grow unacceptable to an increasingly secular scientific establishment that took physicalism – the position that only physical things exist – as its most basic principle. And yet, even as neuroscience gathered pace in the 20th century, no convincing alternative explanation was forthcoming. So little by little, the topic became taboo. Few people doubted that the brain and mind were very closely linked: if you question this, try stabbing your brain repeatedly with a kitchen knife, and see what happens to your consciousness. But how they were linked – or if they were somehow exactly the same thing – seemed a mystery best left to philosophers in their armchairs. As late as 1989, writing in the International Dictionary of Psychology, the British psychologist Stuart Sutherland could irascibly declare of consciousness that “it is impossible to specify what it is, what it does, or why it evolved. Nothing worth reading has been written on it.”

It was only in 1990 that Francis Crick, the joint discoverer of the double helix, used his position of eminence to break ranks. Neuroscience was far enough along by now, he declared in a slightly tetchy paper co-written with Christof Koch, that consciousness could no longer be ignored. “It is remarkable,” they began, “that most of the work in both cognitive science and the neurosciences makes no reference to consciousness” – partly, they suspected, “because most workers in these areas cannot see any useful way of approaching the problem”. They presented their own “sketch of a theory”, arguing that certain neurons, firing at certain frequencies, might somehow be the cause of our inner awareness – though it was not clear how. . .

Continue reading.

My own thought is that one’s sense of personal identity (and thus of “self” or consciousness) is constructed of memes, and in some activities we do lose this sense of individual consciousness: in states of flow or of the trance state in which we respond without consciousness, as in long drives on flat, straight highways.

See also Actual Consciousness, by Ted Honderich. The blurb from the publisher, Oxford University Press, at the link:

What is it for you to be conscious? There is no agreement whatever in philosophy or science: it has remained a hard problem, a mystery. Is this partly or mainly owed to the existing theories not even having the same subject, not answering the same question? In Actual Consciousness, Ted Honderich sets out to supersede dualisms, objective physicalisms, abstract functionalism, general externalisms, and other positions in the debate. He argues that the theory of Actualism, right or wrong, is unprecedented, in nine ways.

(1) It begins from gathered data and proceeds to an adequate initial clarification of consciousness in the primary ordinary sense. This consciousness is summed up as something’s being actual.

(2) Like basic science, Actualism proceeds from this metaphorical or figurative beginning to what is wholly literal and explicit–constructed answers to the questions of what is actual and what it is for it to be actual.

(3) In so doing, the theory respects the differences of consciousness within perception, consciousness that is thinking in a generic sense, and consciousness that is generic wanting.

(4) What is actual with your perceptual consciousness is a subjective physical world out there, very likely a room, differently real from the objective physical world, that other division of the physical world.

(5) What it is for the myriad subjective physical worlds to be actual is for them to be subjectively physical, which is exhaustively characterized.

(6) What is actual with cognitive and affective consciousness is affirmed or valued representations. The representations being actual, which is essential to their nature, is their being differently subjectively physical from the subjective physical worlds.

(7) Actualism, naturally enough when you think of it, but unlike any other existing general theory of consciousness, is thus externalist with perceptual consciousness but internalist with respect to cognitive and affective consciousness.

(8) It satisfies rigorous criteria got from examination of the failures of the existing theories. In particular, it explains the role of subjectivity in thinking about consciousness, including a special subjectivity that is individuality.

(9) Philosophers and scientists have regularly said that thinking about consciousness requires just giving up the old stuff and starting again. Actualism does this. Science is served by this main line philosophy, which is concentration on the logic of ordinary intelligence–clarity, consistency and validity, completeness, generality.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 11:58 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

Guantánamo should make the US ashamed

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The US behavior at Guantánamo, like its behavior at Abu Gharib, is shameful and also extraordinarily counter-productive: what the US has done is essential provide recruiting tools for terrorists, much like the drone strikes.

One prisoner has published a diary of his experience at Guantánamo, excerpted in Spiegel by Britta Sandberg:

Mauritanian national Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been held at Guantanamo for 12 years now without trial and despite a dearth of evidence. A diary he kept of his torture is now being published around the world. SPIEGEL presents some excerpts.

Country roads and dirt tracks lead to Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s former home in a small village near the capital city of Nouakchott. Children play football in front of the house, using two empty cola bottles as makeshift goals. Goats rummage through the trash foraging for anything edible. There are no street names in these parts; the houses are simply numbered.

A 158 in Boudiane, Mauritania was Slahi’s address until 14 years ago. Soon after that, he was assigned another number, when he became prisoner number 760 at Guantanamo, Cuba. Slahi has been held at the American prison for the past 12 years.

He was accused of having been acquainted with the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and of having provided them with support and sending them to Afghanistan to receive training. He has also been accused of involvement in the Millennium Plot, the foiled terrorist attack targeting the Los Angeles International Airport. At least that’s the claim made by Ahmed Ressam, the man arrested in late 1999 at the US-Canadian border with 60 kilograms of explosives in the trunk of his car.

More than a decade later, though, these allegations have essentially collapsed. Sufficient evidence has never turned up, proper charges haven’t been filed and Slahi, now 44, has never been put on trial. US District Court Judge James Robertson, who had to review the lawfulness of his detention in 2010, likewise found no evidence of Slahi’s guilt nor, he said, could it be proven that Slahi had supported the 9/11 perpetrators. He ordered Slahi’s release.

Four days later, though, the American government appealed the decision and the case has since been remanded to a US District Court, where it is still pending. Neither Slahi, his family nor his lawyers know when and if he will ever be able to leave Guantanamo.

‘Don’t Worry Mom, I’ll Be Back Soon’

There’s a pavilion roof over the courtyard of the Slahi family’s two-story house in Boudiane. Slahi’s former bedroom is a bare room with windows facing the courtyard and mattresses that have been stacked up against the wall. Slahi’s mother gave a SPIEGEL reporter a tour of the house in 2008.

“Mohamedou needs to finally come home,” she said tearfully at the time. “He didn’t do anything and he’s my favorite son.” Thanks to mediation efforts undertaken by the International Red Cross, she was able to speak to her son by phone twice a year. But Slahi’s mother would never see him again. She died in March 2013.

“Don’t worry mom, I’ll be back soon,” Slahi told her on Nov. 20, 2001 as police stood in front of the house to pick him up for questioning. He had just gotten out of the shower. He followed behind the officials, who had already interrogated him several times, in his gray Nissan.

Mauritanian and FBI officials questioned him for days. Ramzi Binalshibh, the coordinator of the 9/11 attacks, had allegedly incriminated Slahi, saying that he had had contact with the Hamburg terror cell while studying electrical engineering on a scholarship in Duisburg. Slahi had, in fact, promoted jihad in the early 1990s in small German mosques and travelled himself to a training camp in Afghanistan in 1991. He had wanted to help the Mujahedeen in their fight against the Soviets, he later said. But he claimed he had had nothing to do with 9/11.

‘A Lot of Smoke and No Fire’

After eight days, the Americans flew him to Jordan. In July 2002, they flew him from there to Afghanistan, and in August of the same year to Guantanamo. At the US prison camp, they considered him to be a big fish, a dangerous terrorist. The more insistent he became in refusing to confess, the greater the more suspicious his interlocuters became. Slahi, after all, had visited several suspect locations. Guantanamo’s former chief prosecutor, Morris Davis, recalled ina 2013 interview with Slate: “In early 2007, we had a big meeting with the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice, and we got a briefing from the investigators who worked on the Slahi case, and their conclusion was there’s a lot of smoke and no fire.”

In 2007, Davis resigned in protest over the methods used in handling prisoners at Guantanamo. US military lawyer Stuart Couch, who had been responsible for Slahi’s prosecution, also withdrew from the team when he learned that the inmate had been tortured at Guantanamo. As a Christian, he wrote to his superiors at the time, he had the moral obligation to resign. In Slahi’s case, he argued, the US had acted incorrectly in legal, ethical and moral terms.

Weeks of Torture

Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved Slahi’s “special interrogation” program personally in August 2003. It included sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, extreme cold, a simulated kidnapping, a simulated execution on a boat and the threat that his mother would also be arrested and brought to Guantanamo.

After weeks of torture, Slahi decided to give his torturers what they wanted: He began talking, implicating people he didn’t know and delivering one false statement after the other. He was rewarded for it as well. Even today, Slahi is a privileged prisoner at Guantanamo, with a television and computer, and he’s even allowed to grow his own herb garden. During the summer of 2005, he completed a 460-page Guantanamo Diary that he had written by hand. From the beginning, his hope was to someday publish it. He waited a decade. But on Tuesday, his writings are being published in book form around the world for the first time.

The military administration had classified Slahi’s notes as top secret, stamped with “noforn” (“no foreign nationals”), making them inaccessible to intelligence agencies in other countries. They remained stored at a secure site in Washington. For six years, Slahi’s lawyers fought for their release on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act and in 2012, they finally succeeded. Names and other details had been blacked out, redactions that are reflected in the book as well.

The book is the first comprehensive report given by a prisoner who is still being held at Guantanamo. His lawyer Nancy Hollander says it is also the first to provide details about the torture practices at the military prison. “Slahi provides us with a glimpse of life there,” she says. “I hope this book will change some things and that he will finally be released.”

Mohamedou Ould Slahi wrote the following excerpts from his “Guantanamo Diary” during the summer of 2003.

I was deprived of my comfort items, except for a thin iso-mat and a very thin, small, worn-out blanket. I was deprived of my books, which I owned, I was deprived of my Koran, I was deprived of my soap. I was deprived of my toothpaste and of the roll of toilet paper I had. The cell — better, the box — was cooled down to the point that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day; every once in a while they gave me a rec-time at night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. For the next 70 days, I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping: interrogation 24 hours a day, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off. I don’t remember sleeping one night quietly. “If you start to cooperate you’ll have some sleep and hot meals,” _________________ used to tell me repeatedly.

Force Sex as a Torture Method

“Then today, we’re gonna teach you about great American sex. Get up!” said ________. I stood up in the same painful position as I had every day for about 70 days. I would rather follow the orders and reduce the pain that would be caused when the guards come to play; the guards used every contact opportunity to beat the hell out of the detainee.

“Detainee tried to resist,” was the “gospel truth” they came up with, and guess who was going to be believed? “You’re very smart, because if you don’t stand up it’s gonna be ugly,” ____________.

As soon as I stood up, the two _______ took off their blouses, and started to talk all kind of dirty stuff you can imagine, which I minded less. What hurt me most was them forcing me to take part in a sexual threesome in the most degrading manner. What many _______ don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex, maybe more due to the traditional position of the man. Both _______ stuck on me, literally one on the front and the other older _______ stuck on my back rubbing ____ whole body on mine.

At the same time they were talking dirty to me, and playing with my sexual parts. I am saving you here from quoting the disgusting and degrading talk I had to listen to from noon or before until 10 p.m. when they turned me over to _______, the new character you’ll soon meet.

To be fair and honest, the _______ didn’t deprive me from my clothes at any time; everything happened with my uniform on. The senior _______________ was watching everything _____________________________________________________. I kept praying all the time.

“Stop the fuck praying! You’re having sex with American _______ and you’re praying? What a hypocrite you are!” said ______________ angrily, entering the room.

I refused to stop speaking my prayers, and after that, I was forbidden to perform my ritual prayers for about one year to come. I also was forbidden to fast during the sacred month of Ramadan October 2003, and fed by force. During this session I also refused to eat or to drink, although they offered me water every once in a while. “We must give you food and water; if you don’t eat it’s fine.”

I was just wishing to pass out so I didn’t have to suffer, and that was really the main reason for my hunger strike; I knew people like these don’t get impressed by hunger strikes. Of course they didn’t want me to die, but they understand there are many steps before one dies. “You’re not gonna die, we’re gonna feed you up your ass,” said ____________.

I have never felt as violated in myself as I had since the DoD team started to torture me to get me admit to things I haven’t done. (…) . . .

Continue reading.

It’s easy to understand why the military and the Obama administration (and the Bush administration before) were so determined to keep secret from the American public what they were doing. People who behave shamefully generally do not like their behavior exposed.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 11:45 am

US police are secretive police rather than secret police, but still…

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I would bet any amount of money that the police are quite comfortable with using this device to check inside people’s homes without bothering to get a warrant. Andrea Peterson reports in the Washington Post:

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies are using hand-held radar to “see” the inside of houses, USA Today reports. The radar guns are just the latest in a long line of tech tools being quietly deployed across the country with little public scrutiny, raising questions about how the Fourth Amendment applies in the digital era.

The radar uses radio waves to detect even slight movements inside a house. The version used by the U.S. Marshalls Service — L-3 Communication’s Range-R — is a handheld device with a range of up to 50 feet, according to the company’s promotional materials.

The Range-R features a display screen that shows if it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and how far away that movement was, although it doesn’t render pictures of what’s actually going on inside a house or room. However, USA Today notes that more sophisticated models are on the market, including devices that can be mounted on drones and those that can reveal three-dimensional displays of where people are inside buildings.

Law enforcement agencies started purchasing the devices more than two years ago, according to federal contracts uncovered by USA Today. But their use was largely kept quiet until a December federal appeals court opinion revealed that officers had used one before entering a house to arrest someone wanted for parole violations. Officers had an arrest warrant  but not a warrant to search the home, alarming even the judges.

“It’s obvious to us and everyone else in this case that the government’s warrantless use of such a powerful tool to search inside homes poses grave Fourth Amendment questions,”  the judges wrote. “New technologies bring with them not only new opportunities for law enforcement to catch criminals but also new risks for abuse and new ways to invade constitutional rights.”

Technology that can reveal what is happening inside someone’s house is particularly tricky from a constitutional perspective because the Fourth  Amendment specifically guarantees the privacy of a person’s house against unreasonable search and seizure. And the Supreme Court has tackled the issue before: In 2001, it held that using a thermal camera to scan the outside of a house required a warrant. . .

Continue reading.

The fact is that the police don’t actually seem to care much about the law—particularly the US Constitution. They fall into that meme I blogged about yesterday, in which rules/laws/codes are used to apply to others, who must obey, while oneself is free to ignore such strictures.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 11:38 am

UK dietitian: “My diet is 82% FAT and I’ve never been healthier”

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Interesting article (but in the Daily Mail):

It has long been the modus operandi of dieters around the world – cut the fat and opt for ‘lighter’ foods to try and shift the pounds.

The NHS itself recommends eating plenty of potatoes, bread, rice and pasta with some milk and diary foods, but advises opting for low-fat options.

But now a growing body of evidence is turning the tide on that advice.

A vast collection of studies are changing the dieting landscape, as experts open their eyes to the real enemy targeting our waistlines – carbohydrates.

Now one dietitian, Dr Trudi Deakin, has revealed her diet is 82 per cent fat – and claims she has never felt healthier.

The founder of X-PERT Health, a charity that offers educational programmes on diabetes to NHS professionals, Dr Deakin regularly performs in-depth literature reviews of recent studies to ensure the information they give is up-to-date.

‘More and more evidence is coming out in favour of low carbohydrate diets,’ she told MailOnline.

A year ago, she was asked to speak at the annual Diabetes UK conference in a debate against another researcher on the topic ‘We should stop promoting carbohydrates in people with diabetes’.

Dr Deakin said: ‘Traditionally, the advice has been high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets are best.

‘I won the debate and was amazed afterwards when I started being contacted by diabetic patients and GPs who had started a low-carb diet and found it to be successful.

‘Despite that, patients told me their diabetes care team were still promoting a high-carb diet.

‘GPs were telling me for years they had seen patients coming through on a low-fat high-carb diet complaining it wasn’t helping them.

‘I started to do some additional research last summer, reading lots of fantastic books and studies.

‘I now have a very clear understanding of how a high-carb diet has fuelled the obesity epidemic.’

Below, Dr Deakin shares the key principles of the high fat diet with MailOnline…

Continue reading.

See also this earlier post.

More info on the actual LCHF diet at and

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 10:55 am

The day the Ku Klux Klan messed with the wrong people

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A very interesting read at Daily Kos by gjonnsit:

“You saw those cars coming, and you knew who those men were. They wanted you to see them. They wanted you to be afraid of them.”
– Lillie McKoy, former mayor of Maxton talking about the KKK

 By the mid-1950’s the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum and the KKK decided they had to fight back. Their campaign of terrorism swept through many of the southern states, but largely fell flat in North Carolina.

James W. “Catfish” Cole, the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in South Carolina, decided he was going to change that. Cole was an ordained minister of the Wayside Baptist Church in Summerfield, North Carolina, who regularly preached the Word of God on the radio. His rallies often drew as many as 15,000 people.  As Cole told the newspapers: “There’s about 30,000 half-breeds up in Robeson County and we are going to have some cross burnings and scare them up.”

Cole made a critical mistake that couldn’t be avoided by a racist mind – he was completely ignorant of the people he was about to mess with. . . [Doubtless just a tiny fraction of his overall store of ignorance. – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 9:11 am

Posted in Daily life

Automatic smart-driving assistant

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A cool and doubtless useful tool for those who own both a car made after 1996 and an iPhone 5 and newer (iOS 7 & above) or Android 4.0+.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 9:05 am

Good shave with the Above the Tie S2 open-comb slant

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SOTD 21 Jan 2015

The lather was great, and my appreciation of the Plisson synthetic is renewed. This is a wonderful brush for me, but those who prefer a very dense and stiff brush with short loft will probably not like it simply because of the feel. The performance is extremely good—that is, it is easy to load and it works up a terrific lather quickly—but it definitely feels soft on the face, a feeling I enjoy.

With any new razor it will be necessary to do some renewed blade exploration: a brand that best in one razor may not be best (or even good) in another. So the fact that this first shave felt a little uncomfortable (in the “harsh” direction) probably just means I need to try some other brands of blades. The blade was a Personna Lab Blue, which works well in my other slants—and in particular in the Above the Tie S1 slant, with a bar guard instead of an open comb.

Still, I got a perfect BBS result with no nicks. Just a lack of comfort. Right now, the S1 seems better, but let me try another brand of blade.

A good splash—or rather, several sprays into the palm of my hand, then applied to face—of Creed Aventus, and the day is launched.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 January 2015 at 8:56 am

Posted in Shaving

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