Later On

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Archive for March 12th, 2015

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free… on second thought, no—I’ll just throw them into prison.”

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Esther Yu-Hsi Lee writes at ThinkProgress:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are set to release a 27-year-old Honduran migrant mother who attempted suicide minutes after officials gave her the choice between paying a $5,000 bond or remaining in an immigration detention center in Texas. Just last month, a federal court issued an injunction to temporarily halt the government from detaining migrant mothers with children seeking asylum in the United States. But advocates are saying that officials are bypassing the injunction by issuing high bonds as a way to keep those immigrants in detention and deter future border crossers.

“They told me they were going to send me to another psych center, but instead they brought me to this detention center,” Bernice said last week according to a press release. “They took my child from me and have not told me anything about where she is. I know I will be killed if I am deported; I cannot pay $5,000. I ask for god to help me.”

Immigration officials have detained Bernice at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas since December 2014. Bernice, a Honduran of Garifuna descent, was found to “have favorable credible fear findings, a process which allows for individuals to pursue their asylum cases,” according to an Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) press release.

Jonathan Ryan, the executive director of the immigration rights group Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) told ThinkProgress on Thursday that Bernice had been politically active in Honduras and was seeking political asylum in the United States after “she got into a tight situation” fighting for equality for the Garifuna community, an oppressed minority group of Afro-Caribbean descent living in Honduras.

“This is someone who sought redress from harm in her country and her country failed her,” Ryan said. “We failed her in terms of helping her and we made it worse by putting her in detention, calling her a threat to national security. The [high] bond that she received was under the ‘national security’ argument.”

In an April 2013 ruling, former Attorney General John Ashcroft argued against granting bond to a Haitian immigrant because it would encourage future illegal entries, Buzzfeed reported.

Immigration officials generally determine the bond price based on a variety of factors, including whether an immigrant could be a flight risk or pose a public safety threat. According to Mohammad Abdollahi, the RAICES advocacy director, lower bonds — the minimum set at $1,500 — are set for immigrants who have U.S. citizen connections because they are more likely to show up to court. Higher bonds are generally set for immigrants with undocumented family members.

Even after Ryan argued that Bernice has U.S. citizen family members who could take her in and could assure that she would check in with the court, ICE reportedly refused to budge on the bond amount. “Why her bond remained the same was confusing to me as her attorney,” he said. “It was clearly confusing and devastating to her, as the person in detention, because it was within minutes of hearing this that she lost all hope and did something drastic.”

After Bernice’s attempted suicide, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 8:43 pm

An example of why mathematics is so appealing

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Erica Klarreich writes in Quanta:

In 1978, the mathematician John McKay noticed what seemed like an odd coincidence. He had been studying the different ways of representing the structure of a mysterious entity called the monster group, a gargantuan algebraic object that, mathematicians believed, captured a new kind of symmetry. Mathematicians weren’t sure that the monster group actually existed, but they knew that if it did exist, it acted in special ways in particular dimensions, the first two of which were 1 and 196,883.

McKay, of Concordia University in Montreal, happened to pick up a mathematics paper in a completely different field, involving something called the j-function, one of the most fundamental objects in number theory. Strangely enough, this function’s first important coefficient is 196,884, which McKay instantly recognized as the sum of the monster’s first two special dimensions.

Most mathematicians dismissed the finding as a fluke, since there was no reason to expect the monster and the j-function to be even remotely related. However, the connection caught the attention of John Thompson, a Fields medalist now at the University of Florida in Gainsville, who made an additional discovery. The j-function’s second coefficient, 21,493,760, is the sum of the first three special dimensions of the monster: 1 + 196,883 + 21,296,876. It seemed as if the j-function was somehow controlling the structure of the elusive monster group.

Soon, two other mathematicians had demonstrated so many of these numerical relationships that it no longer seemed possible that they were mere coincidences. In a 1979 paper called “Monstrous Moonshine,” the pair — John Conway, now of Princeton University, and Simon Norton — conjectured that these relationships must result from some deep connection between the monster group and thej-function. “They called it moonshine because it appeared so far-fetched,” said Don Zagier, a director of the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in Bonn, Germany. “They were such wild ideas that it seemed like wishful thinking to imagine anyone could ever prove them.”

It took several more years before mathematicians succeeded in even constructing the monster group, but they had a good excuse: The monster has more than 1053 elements, which is more than the number of atoms in a thousand Earths. In 1992, a decade after Robert Griess of the University of Michigan constructed the monster, Richard Borcherds tamed the wild ideas of monstrous moonshine, eventually earning a Fields Medal for this work. Borcherds, of the University of California, Berkeley, proved that there was a bridge between the two distant realms of mathematics in which the monster and the j-function live: namely, string theory, the counterintuitive idea that the universe has tiny hidden dimensions, too small to measure, in which strings vibrate to produce the physical effects we experience at the macroscopic scale.

Borcherds’ discovery touched off a revolution in pure mathematics, leading to a new field known as generalized Kac-Moody algebras. But from a string theory point of view, it was something of a backwater. The 24-dimensional string theory model that linked the j-function and the monster was far removed from the models string theorists were most excited about. “It seemed like just an esoteric corner of the theory, without much physical interest, although the math results were startling,” said Shamit Kachru, a string theorist at Stanford University.

But now moonshine is undergoing a renaissance, one that may eventually have deep implications for string theory. Over the past five years, starting with a discovery analogous to McKay’s, mathematicians and physicists have come to realize that monstrous moonshine is just the start of the story.

Last week, . . .

Continue reading. Fascinating. The last two paragraphs:

Physicists are also excited about a highly conjectural connection between moonshine and quantum gravity, the as-yet-undiscovered theory that will unite general relativity and quantum mechanics. In 2007, the physicist Edward Witten, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., speculated that the string theory in monstrous moonshine should offer a way to construct a model of three-dimensional quantum gravity, in which 194 natural categories of elements in the monster group correspond to 194 classes of black holes. Umbral moonshine may lead physicists to similar conjectures, giving hints of where to look for a quantum gravity theory. “That is a big hope for the field,” Duncan said.

The new numerical proof of the Umbral Moonshine Conjecture is “like looking for an animal on Mars and seeing its footprint, so we know it’s there,” Zagier said. Now, researchers have to find the animal — the string theory that would illuminate all these deep connections. “We really want to get our hands on it,” Zagier said.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Math, Science

Finland, Home of the $103,000 Speeding Ticket

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Excellent idea, adjusting fines to ability to pay. A $500 fine can be crushing to a low-income person and more or less laughed off by a highly-paid executive or tech worker. For the highly paid, a $500 fine is barely noticeable, just as are the million-dollar fines levied on international corporations: for those, a million-dollar fine is petty cash. But charge a fine appropriate to income level and you get people’s attention. Needless to say, the wealthy don’t like it: they’re accustomed to fines that are trivial compared to their income, and that the same fines are onerous to those with low incomes bothers them not at all—but when the fine is onerous to them, they suddenly develop a sense of how it feels, and they don’t like it. My sympathy is muted. Perhaps they shouldn’t speed? Though it doubtless shocks them to discover they are not above the law, on the whole I believe the effect is salutary.

Joe Pinsker writes in the Atlantic:

Reima Kuisla, a Finnish businessman, was recently caught going 65 miles per hour in a 50 zone in his home country—an offense that would typically come with a fine of a couple hundred dollars, at most, in the U.S. But after Finnish police pulled Kuisla over, they pinged a federal taxpayer database to determine his income, consulted their handbook, and arrived at the amount that he was required to pay: €54,000.

The fine was so extreme because in Finland, some traffic fines, as well as fines for shoplifting and violating securities-exchange laws, are assessed based on earnings—and Kuisla’s declared income was €6.5 million per year. Exorbitant fines like this are infrequent, but not unheard of: In 2002, a Nokia executive was fined the equivalent of $103,000 for going 45 in a 30 zone on his motorcycle, and the NHL player Teemu Selanne incurred a $39,000 fine two years earlier.

“This is no constitutionally governed state,” one Finn who was fined nearly $50,000 moaned to The Wall Street Journal, “This is a land of rhinos!” Outrage among the rich—especially nonsensical, safari-invoking outrage—might be a sign that something fair is at work.

Finland’s system for calculating fines is relatively simple: It starts with an estimate of the amount of spending money a Finn has for one day, and then divides that by two—the resulting number is considered a reasonable amount of spending money to deprive the offender of. Then, based on the severity of the crime, the system has rules for how many days the offender must go without that money. Going about 15 mph over the speed limit gets you a multiplier of 12 days, and going 25 mph over carries a 22-day multiplier.

Most reckless drivers pay between €30 and €50 per day, for a total of about €400 or €500. Finland’s maximum multiplier is 120 days, but there’s no ceiling on the fines themselves—the fine is taken as a constant proportion of income whether you make €80,000 a year or €800,000.

Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland also have some sliding-scale fines, or “day-fines,” in place, but in America, flat-rate fines are the norm. Since the late 80s, when day-fines were first seriously tested in the U.S., they have remained unusual and even exotic.

But to advocate for the American adoption of day-fines isn’t to engage in the standard grass-is-greener worship of Scandinavia that’s in style right now. It’s logical. Yes, day-fines might dissuade the rich from breaking the law; after all, wealthier people have been shown to drive more recklessly than those who make less money, and Steve Jobs was known to park in handicapped spots and drive around without license plates.

But more importantly, day-fines could introduce some fairness to a legal system that many have convincingly shown to be biased against the poor. Last week, the Department of Justice released a comprehensive report on how fines have been doled out in Ferguson, Missouri. “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs,” it concluded. . .

Continue reading.

For too long the wealthy have acted as scofflaws, insulated by their wealth and the trivial fines that are levied. It’s past time for a change. But wealthy folks do not like being the same (relative) position as poor folks because the wealthy have a very strong sense of entitlement.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 1:40 pm

Take a look at how weird glass is

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Some good videos in this article by Steph Yin at Motherboard:

Soon after I met Tarun Chitra, he shattered all of my illusions about glass.

It was a Friday evening in early September, the air was still summery, and we were hanging out at a friend’s house before going out dancing.

Chitra works with one of my roommates at a biochemistry research company called D.E. Shaw Research​ based in New York City. He is trying to figure out how glass molecules behave, but doing so on a level beyond the typical models and simulations physicists use.

Rather than using simplified models that essentially treat molecules like balls in a ball pit, Chitra uses a custom-built supercomputer to run intricate simulations of glass molecules that represent actual atoms bonded together with springs.

In addition to furthering physicists’ understanding of how glass works, Chitra’s research could inform the production of better glass technologies in everything from tough gorilla glass to better optical lenses to strong, ultra-thin glasses that can be used in fiber optics and nanotechnology.

In my experience, asking someone to talk about their research can either be immensely rewarding or immensely tedious, but I was on the prowl for good science stories, so I figured I’d give it a shot. Plus, I liked Chitra’s style: scruff and disheveled hair that I decided meant he prioritized thinking over grooming, a subtly nasal voice that I felt would pair well with explaining physics, and socks featuring colors not made by Crayola, which I coveted for myself.

Right off the bat, Chitra threw down a couple facts that surprised me. First, glass isn’t solid (which I knew)—but it’s not quite liquid either (which is what I thought it was). Secondly, glass doesn’t just refer to the silica-based material that we use to make bottles and windows. In fact, pretty much any liquid, including water, can be made into a glass if it is cooled past its melting point fast enough.

Then Chitra started talking about movies and contra-dancing. And that’s when I knew for sure that I was in for a good science lesson. By the end of it, it was clear to me that glass is freakishly weird, and scientists know relatively little about it.


We might mistake glass for a solid because it’s hard and retains its shape when we pick it up, Chitra said. But if we were to zoom in on a glass, down to a microscopic level, we’d see something different. “Glass is surprising because it’s so rigid, but when you measure its molecular properties, it looks exactly like a liquid,” he told me. The molecules in a glass are scattered all over the place rather than packed into the neat lattice structure that gives solids their stiffness.

Part of the confusion about where glass stands in relation to solids and liquids has to do with timescale, according to Chitra. Think of it in terms of frame rates for a movie, he suggested. “A solid is a single frame that never changes. A liquid is a movie at normal speed. And a glass is a movie that moves so slowly that it takes your whole lifetime to move one second.”

So even though a single frame of glass molecules looks the same as a single frame of liquid molecules, the frame rates for the two are very different. The frame rate of glass is so slow that it appears to act like the static single frame of a solid. “It’s as if I gave you a single picture and said, ‘Tell me whether this was taken by a still camera or a video camera,’” said Chitra. “Glass is like watching a movie so slowly that it basically looks like the frame doesn’t change.”

But it’s not like glass is just a really slow-moving liquid either. In fact, glass departs from liquid is some key ways. . .

Continue reading for more info and the videos.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Science

Snail Shells Are Inspiring Tomorrow’s Toughest Materials

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Materials science is fascinating. Take, for example, why abalone shells are so tough. Stephen Buranyi writes in Motherboard:

At McGill University’s ​Laboratory for Advanced Materials and Bioinspiration, researchers are shaping hexagonal plates into tough, bendable armour, like the scales of a fish, and making glass that doesn’t shatter, but bends and absorbs force.

Across the Atlantic, at the ​Leibniz Institute for Interactive Materials in Aachen, Germany, another group is developing flexible nanoclay sheets—thinner than paper and completely translucent—that are impervious to flame and gas.

What both teams have in common is an interest in sea snails— ​abalone snails, specifically—whose shells have fascinated biologists and engineers since the mid-1970s. The shells are made of a material called nacre, which is composed almost entirely of a brittle mineral. But because of the way the mineral is organized, in sheets with tiny amounts of plastic-like proteins creating a complex system of sliding plates, nacre is over 3,000 times tougher than the mineral on its own.

“Nature takes materials that are not appealing in terms of strength or toughness and puts them together in way that produces high performance. This is the sort of thing we are after. Purely through architecture we can completely change a material’s behaviour,” said Francois Barthelat, head of the McGill lab. His team has made huge advances in toughening up one of humanity’s most familiar breakable materials—glass.

With glass, the challenge is finding a balance between strength and toughness. Glass is strong. It doesn’t bend or deform over time, but is easily shattered by a sudden impact. Plastic, on the other hand, is tough. It can survive sudden impacts, but it bends and scratches easily. But abalone shells, amazingly, combine the best features of both. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 1:03 pm

Posted in Science

Convicted on rumor and shoddy police work

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Jordan Smith reports in The Intercept:

It was roughly 10 p.m. in Las Vegas, on July 8, 2001, when a man rummaging through the garbage behind a bank just west of the Strip found the body.

Tossed behind a dumpster and covered in trash was a dead black man. Though he had no ID on him, police would soon learn that he was known on the streets as “St. Louis,” and, eventually, they would identify him as 44-year-old Duran Bailey, who had recently become homeless. He had been brutalized. Bailey’s skull was cracked, and his blood-caked eyes were swollen shut. Six teeth had been knocked from his mouth and were found scattered nearby. He had been stabbed repeatedly; the scene was soaked in blood. Most disturbingly, his penis had been cut off. It was found several feet from the body.

However gruesome, the murder scene was also rich with potential evidence: There were Bailey’s pants — likely pulled down by his killer, or killers. There was a piece of clear plastic that had been wrapped around his groin. Among the trash on or near the body was a clump of chewing gum, a condom wrapper, as well as several cigarette butts. There was at least one distinct set of bloody footprints inside the trash enclosure and leading away, toward the parking lot; beyond that, tire tracks, apparently freshly laid, running over a parking divider and disappearing toward the street.

There was also at least one video camera, at the ATM in front of the bank, as well as dozens of potential witnesses living in two large apartment complexes just north of the crime scene.

Nevertheless, the detectives assigned to the case were flummoxed. The lead investigator, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Detective Thomas Thowsen and his partner, James LaRochelle, arrived at the crime scene around 1 a.m. and left five hours later, as it was still being processed. They went back to the station, “put our heads together” and tried to figure out “what we had before us,” Thowsen would later testify.

They attended the autopsy later that day, where the medical examiner detailed Bailey’s extensive injuries: In addition to the head trauma and post-mortem amputation, Bailey’s carotid artery had been cut, and his anus had been slashed. Swabs taken from his penis and rectum would later be found to contain semen. No time of death was established.

Thowsen and LaRochelle visited the Nevada State Bank where Bailey had been found and learned that someone fitting his description was a customer there. They spoke to a security officer who said he had not seen any homeless people in the vicinity. They also spoke to at least one resident of the area — a woman who lived just to the north of the bank, in the Grandview Apartments, who approached the crime scene shortly after the detectives had left, asking what was going on.

But their official investigation then stalled. For the next 11 days, Thowsen and LaRochelle developed no leads in the case. The detectives could have pulled security footage from the bank or canvassed the neighborhood. They could have contacted Bailey’s known associates in order to retrace his final days. According to the official police report, they did none of those things. The murder of a homeless man, no matter how brutal, apparently was not a priority to detectives with a heavy caseload. The case seemed destined to go cold.

But then, on July 20, the police received a phone call from a woman in Pioche, a historic mining town three hours northeast of the city. Her name was Laura Johnson, and she asked whether the police department had, by any chance, found a man missing a penis. Johnson, who worked as a juvenile probation officer in Lincoln County, had heard something through the grapevine: A teacher friend, Dixie, had mentioned that her former student Kirstin had told Dixie that she cut off a man’s penis down in Vegas.

Thowsen and LaRochelle wasted no time. They hopped in a department SUV and hightailed it north along a two-lane highway into the desert mountains, toward Johnson’s home. There, she related the full exchange with Dixie. It was short on details, yet, according to the police report, she convinced the cops that they probably should not speak to Dixie directly. What if she warned Kirstin that police were asking questions? Thowsen and LaRochelle agreed, and apparently accepted at face value Johnson’s vague third-hand account. They left her home, and less than three hours after arriving in Lincoln County, arrested Kirstin Blaise Lobato.

A bleach-blond, lanky 18-year-old who at the time of the murder weighed close to 100 pounds, Lobato made an odd suspect for such a brutal crime. She had just graduated high school, and although she admitted that she had recently spent time in Vegas, she had an alibi for her whereabouts at the time of the murder. Importantly, she had no clear motive for killing Bailey, a stranger, especially in such a violent way. Nor was there any way Lobato could be the source of the semen collected from Bailey’s rectum. In fact, when the results of forensic analysis came back from the crime lab, there was not a shred of physical evidence linking Lobato to the scene.Yet, solely on the basis of a rumor, the state of Nevada would aggressively pursue a murder conviction of Lobato — and ultimately succeed. Today, following two trials, Lobato is imprisoned at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas. Now 32, she has a number of staunch supporters — including local activists and a retired FBI agent — who insist that she is innocent, the victim of shoddy police work, an overzealous prosecution, a poor defense and a biased judge. . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. When being innocent is no protection, then everyone is at risk.

And innocence is indeed no protection. Read this Slate article by Lara Bazelon. From that article:

If you are a wrongfully convicted man or woman in this country, it is extremely difficult—if not outright impossible—to win your case by advancing the simple argument that you are innocent. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s true. The Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to hold that the federal Constitution allows for so-called freestanding claims of innocence, that is, the right to be let out of prison simply because you didn’t do it, without any other “technical” violation to back up your argument. In the United States, the inmate who raises a compelling case of innocence after a constitutionally proper trial may well be doomed.

So even if it’s proven that Kirstin Lobato is innocent, that won’t by itself get her out of prison. It’s also necessary (and can even be sufficient) that there be some technical violation (e.g., exculpatory evidence concealed from the defense attorney(s)). The second article is quite interesting—and, in view of how poorly police and prosecutors often do their jobs, rather scary.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 12:58 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Union Buried Evidence of Firestone Support of Warlord After Labor Deal

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It’s a shame when bad actions are concealed and covered up, and it seems particularly bad in this case, reported by Jonathan Jones and T. Christian Miller in ProPublica:

In 1996, Firestone, one of the world’s largest tire-makers, was locked in a grueling labor dispute with the United Steelworkers of America. The union portrayed it as a struggle between blue-collar workers and a company that was aiming to slash the pay and benefits of its employees. Thousands of workers went on strike, and the union mounted a consumer boycott of Firestone products and those of its Japanese-owned corporate parent, Bridgestone. There were protest demonstrations, too, including a “black flag” motorcycle brigade at the nation’s most famous auto race, the Indianapolis 500.

The steelworkers – who had begun representing Firestone employees after a merger with another union, the United Rubber Workers, in 1995 – also began looking into the company’s activities abroad, most notably its rubber operations in Liberia. With the help of private investigators, the union uncovered evidence that in the early 1990’s Firestone had been the source of money and logistical support for Charles Taylor, the notorious Liberian warlord whose violent bid for power had ensnared the country in a horrific civil war. The union then developed plans to use what it believed might have been criminal conduct by Firestone as leverage in the contract negotiations.

Plans were hatched to hold press conferences. A secret briefing was prepared for Vice President Al Gore. Importantly, there were also discussions about using the evidence of dealings with Taylor to demand that Firestone permit the steelworkers to play an active role in monitoring labor standards in Liberia. The union’s documents from the time suggest it saw a greater good in revealing Firestone’s history with Taylor — that doing so might make the company “accountable to the Liberian people and to the world,” as the union stated in the introduction of the 43-page confidential report detailing their findings.

But the steelworkers union never made its findings public. Instead, it buried the investigation of Firestone’s role in the Liberian civil war, and the company’s actions remained secret for more than 20 years. What happened to the investigation is not clear. But just two weeks after the union completed its inquiry, Firestone and the steelworkers met in confidential negotiations, and soon reached a deal. The union won concessions on pay and benefits. But any formal notion of improving working conditions in Liberia was abandoned, and Firestone’s dealing with Taylor would not be aired until a ProPublicaand PBS Frontline investigation late last year.

The steelworkers would not comment at all — on their investigation into Firestone’s activities in Liberia, what role the investigation had played in the negotiations, or why the union had decided to keep the information secret. In an email, Wayne Ranick, a spokesman for the steelworkers, said the union could not comment on the matter because key leaders from that time period, including the union president and general counsel, are now dead. Other figures involved in the investigation had retired, he said.

A Firestone official said the company could not shed any light on the episode. Paul M. Oakley, a spokesman, said the company is now focusing on returning its rubber operations in Liberia to a relative level of normalcy in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak. Company officials, he said in an email, “are not inclined to spend a lot of time and effort combing through archives that may or may not have relevant information.”

Joe Uehlein, a longtime labor activist who served on the steelworkers’ global campaign strategy team, said Bridgestone Firestone was well aware of the union’s investigation and that it had helped prompt the eventual deal.

The Liberia investigation “played a big role in bringing Bridgestone Firestone back to the negotiating table,” said Uehlein, who is now retired.

Last November, ProPublica and PBS Frontline detailed for the first time the role Firestone played in the early stages of Taylor’s bloody rise to power, a set of findings that in several key respects echoed the evidence the union’s investigators had uncovered decades earlier.

The ProPublica and PBS Frontline story drew on hundreds of interviews, copies of documents found in court records, once-secret diplomatic cables, trial transcripts and work done by Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Firestone, whose Liberian rubber plantation was regarded as the largest in the world, signed a formal deal with Taylor in 1992, agreeing to pay the warlord millions in exchange for being able to operate in the country during the early, brutally violent years of its civil war.

Taylor, who later was convicted of war crimes for atrocities carried out in Sierra Leone, testified under oath during his trial at The Hague that Firestone’s money and cooperation had been critical to his insurrection. . .

Continue reading.

Truly, modern corporations will do anything—absolutely anything, without regard to legality, morality, or ethics—to increase profit.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Business, Law

Time for baby back ribs…

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I’m looking at this excellent recipe, but I have a ton of good baby-back rib recipes. James Beard favored a very simple prep:

Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs. Put the ribs on a rack or shallow baking pan in a single layer and roast them at 350oF for 1 hour, turning the ribs over after 30 minutes. Barbecue sauce should be served to the side, if at all. Serves 2 as a main dish.

The “shallow” is very important: a rimmed baking sheet works noticeably better than a roasting pan because the baking sheet lets the cooler air spill out of the pan; the higher sides of the roasting pan hold it in. It’s also good to let the ribs sit out for two hours before roasting so that they can come to room temperature.

I think I might do the easy way: Strip silver skin from the back of the ribs if the butcher’s not already done it. (If you have to strip it yourself, it strips off easier if you push an inverted spoon under one end to get it started, then grab it with a paper towel.) Sprinkle ribs generously with Penzey’s Bicentennial Rub, let sit out for two hours, then put into a 300ºF oven for 2.5 hours.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 11:31 am

Western Razor, Mike’s Natural Vetiver, and a fine shave

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SOTD 12 Mar 2015

Very fine shave today. As the demand for DE razors increases—that is, as the market grows—new products start to show up: new soaps, new brushes, and new razors. I’m using one of each today. is a new maker of brushes. They have an unusual handle, very comfortable and available in many patterns, with knots that tend toward the short and firm—men who like the Simpson Chubby will like these. I like them, and the pure badger knot shown feels good on my face (unlike the Omega pure badger brush I once had, which was quite prickly). Though the knot is relatively short-lofted, it holds plenty of lather for a three- or four-pass shave

Mike’s Natural is one of a growing number of artisanal soaps, and his are excellent. They are thirsty, and as I load the damp brush, I add a small amount of water to the brush, work it in as I load, and repeat. Then, as I work up the lather on my beard, I add another little bit of water. The lather is plentiful, slick, and excellent, and the Vetiver fragrance hit the spot.

Western Razor is a new company that offers a substantial razor—the hefty handle is the same diameter as the iKon or Weber Bulldog, but somewhat longer—with a more or less standard head: like the Maggard or Edwin Jagger, it is comfortable and efficient. It costs a very reasonable $33 and came with the 5-pack of Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge blades, and with those blades I had no trouble at all in getting a BBS result.

Because of the handle—stainless steel, good diameter, good length—it feels quite good in the hand, and if you maintain light pressure—this is another razor whose weight you might want to support in your hand rather than having the full weight on your face—it does a terrific job.

A splash of Guerlain Vetiver to finish the shave, and the La-Z-Boy guy showed up and fixed my chair: the back was off the rails was the only problem. Still, I think that should I replace it some day years hence, I will avoid La-Z-Boy: the waits are too long and the product clearly is not so well made as it once was.

Written by Leisureguy

12 March 2015 at 7:21 am

Posted in Shaving

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