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Archive for August 21st, 2015

Policies regulating the use of police body-cams and the videos they make

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In the Washington Post Radley Balko looks at some problematic policies voiced by San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman:

In March, we learned about the promising results of a police body camera study in San Diego. From the Los Angeles Times:

The use of body cameras by San Diego police has led to fewer complaints by residents and less use of force by officers, according to a city report released Wednesday.

Complaints have fallen 40.5% and use of “personal body” force by officers has been reduced by 46.5% and use of pepper spray by 30.5%, according to the report developed by the Police Department for the City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

By year’s end, the department plans to have nearly 1,000 officers equipped with the small cameras, including patrol officers, gang-unit officers and motorcycle officers. Currently, 600 officers have the cameras.

The department began testing the use of body cameras in January 2014, two months before city leaders called for an audit of the department’s managerial practices by the U.S. Department of Justice.

But as I wrote last year, outfitting every police officer in the country with a body camera won’t change much if those cameras don’t come with policies that emphasize transparency. Cops who don’t turn their cameras on when they’re supposed to need to be punished. Video needs to be made available to the public, albeit with certain provisions to protect privacy. Video will certainly exonerate some officers accused of misconduct. But it will also inevitably show some officers to have lied, abused their authority and broken the law. Building trust requires transparency under either scenario. The problem in San Diego is that Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman wants the appearance of transparency that comes with body cameras, but she still wants her hand at the switch that controls the flow of information. From the Voice of San Diego:

“The video footages are considered evidence,” Zimmerman said during a panel discussion organized by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “And at this point, in the policy, I don’t plan to release any of the video with it because it is considered evidence.”

Legal experts have said SDPD could legally keep the video footage private indefinitely, even after an investigation wraps.

The department’s policy was revealed when Voice of San Diego requested footage from two police shootings this spring. The department didn’t release the videos, citing ongoing investigations . . .

Zimmerman said there is a potential exception to the general rule against releasing the footage, though it’s totally up to her whether it comes into play.

This basically boils down to a policy of “just trust us.” But public mistrust of the police — some earned, some not — is one of the primary reasons police reformers advocate the use of body cameras. Citizen-shot video has now shown police to have lied or misstated the facts in countless incidents, including a number of fatal shootings. It has tipped the scales, at least a little, away from blind deference to the police narrative. There has now been a questionable police shooting in San Diego. A witness has contradicted the officer’s account of the shooting. This would seem to be the ideal time to release the body camera footage. But the San Diego Police Department won’t budge.

Here are the details, from the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Fridoon Rawshan Nehad, an Afghanistan native with a criminal history and mental health problems, was shot to death on April 30 by Officer Neal Browder in an alley near an adult book store in the Midway District. Browder was responding to a late-night report that a man in the area had been threatening people with a knife. Browder reported that when he fired his weapon, Nehad was advancing on him with what the officer thought was a knife in his hand but what turned out to be a pen. Violating his department’s policy, the 27-year police veteran did not have his body camera on.

So there’s the first problem. If cameras are going to be used, there needs to be a sufficient punishment to deter officers from not using them, especially in the very sorts of situations for which cameras are important. But it gets worse.

But Wesley Doyle, who then worked for KECO, a nearby business that had a surveillance camera that videotaped the shooting, tells a different story. Doyle says he watched the video of the incident 20 to 30 times and it doesn’t show Nehad behaving in a threatening manner at all, only Browder hastily shooting the man.

Yet the city, in its response to a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Nehad’s family, stands by the account of Browder, who returned to patrol duty June 1. The department will not provide the video to the media, saying it has no legal obligation to do so.

But the department doesn’t have any legal requirement to keep the evidence under wraps. Police elsewhere routinely release relevant video footage. Between this fact, Doyle’s account of what the video shows and Doyle’s assertion that he was subjected to an aggressive, intimidating interview by two homicide detectives, the San Diego Police Department is inviting the belief that it is executing a cover-up. The video should be released as soon as possible – whatever the embarrassment or fallout – because not releasing it is also generating embarrassment and fallout.

So Zimmerman believes not only that she has the right to keep body camera footage from the public, but also that she has the right to seize video taken by a camera owned by a private citizen and prevent the public from seeing that footage as well. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2015 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

3D-Printed Stethoscope Costs $5, Outperforms $200 Competitors

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Technology helps us all—well, all except those selling overpriced medical equipment. J.M. Porup reports in Motherboard:

Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor in Gaza, wants to apply the principles of open source software development to out-of-patent medical devices. His first success: A 3D-printed stethoscope head that costs 30 cents to make and, according to his tests, has better sound quality than the industry standard.

Loubani is the head of the Glia project, whose team of hackers and surgeons designed and field-tested the stethoscope. Audio-frequency response curve tests showed the device not only exceeds international standards, but offers superior sound quality compared to the industry-leading Littmann Cardiology 3.

The Littmann retails for $150-200. The Glia stethoscope, including the 3D printed head, tubing and ear piece, will cost around $5 to produce.

Loubani founded the Glia project after the 2012 Israeli invasion of Gaza. “I had to hold my ear to the chests of victims because there were no good stethoscopes, and that was a tragedy, a travesty, and unacceptable,” Loubani told attendees during a presentation at the Chaos Communications Camp in Zehdenick, Germany.

The device was tested in a process the group dubbed the “Hello Kitty” protocol. During the test, which measures how much sound is transmitted at each frequency, the stethoscope is pressed against a balloon filled with water before sound is transmitted through the balloon. The abundance of cat-branded balloons available in Gaza at the time led to that nickname. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . Loubani foresees a future in which lifesaving medical devices, like dialysis machines and electrocardiograms, can be 3D printed around the world for a fraction of their former cost. Inspired by the open source software movement, he keeps all his code on GitHub and encourages doctors and hardware hackers to contribute to the project in a collaborative way. . .

The Glia team is focused on developing the three most ubiquitous and expensive medical devices—the stethoscope, a pulse oximeter that monitors blood oxygen levels, and an electrocardiogram for cardiac patients. The latter two, Loubani explains, will use “PCBs [printed circuit boards] designed to be easy for people to make in low-resource settings with simple methods like toner transfer. The housing is 3D printed.” . . .

Loubani was inspired to launch the project after testing his nephew’s toy stethoscope, and was startled to find such good sound quality.

Stethoscope prices remain high despite the expiration of fifty-year-old patents, and so he brought together a group of hardware hackers to work on the Glia model.

“I can understand why these companies charge so much,” he wrote. “[They] have no reason to undermine their profits. Why would 3M develop a stethoscope that’s as good as their $200 model but a fraction of the cost? That’s where doctors, hackers and tinkerers from all over the world take over to create these devices in a way that’s affordable and accessible.” . . .

Motherboard has another article, by Seung Lee, about how medical companies are developed stethoscope replacements with enhanced capabilities (recording the sounds, for example) and sell at much higher prices. Well worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2015 at 3:16 pm

Jimmy Carter’s decades-long program to eradicate Guinea worm has worked

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In DailyKos a blog post by distraught notes:

Today, Jimmy Carter discussed his cancer diagnosis and treatment, even saying “I hope the last Guinea worm dies before I do.” [full video of his press conference]

What a gift to future generations it would be. Humanity has only eradicated smallpox before this, and there was a vaccine for that. In May, the WHO reiterated its commitment to interrupt transmission of the Guinea worm–technically a nematode–by the end of 2015.

Cheap water filters and dedicated public health practitioners made it possible. The leadership of Jimmy Carter brought the necessary financial resources and galvanized local governments to make this happen.

Through July of 2015, there have been just 11 cases in the 4 endemic countries (Chad [7 cases], Ethiopia [1], Mali [1] and South Sudan [2]). If these communities can pull it off, then after 3 years of no further disease, WHO would officially declare eradication.

Earlier this year on NPR, President Carter said:

“It’s a despicable disease. And it was in such remote villages that no one wanted to take on the task. So we decided to take it on. We started in 1986 and we’ve been going at it ever since. Twenty-six thousand five hundred villages were affected — and [the Carter Center] has been to every one of them.”

At that time, an estimated 3.5 million people in 20 countries in Asia and Africa suffered from a parasitic infection Carter describes as “horribly painful … caused by drinking contaminated water from rain ponds, which is often the only source of water for a village.” Once ingested, the microscopic larvae begin to grow and within a year develop into stringy three-foot-long worms that slowly and agonizingly emerge from lesions that can appear anywhere in the body.

The American Museum of Natural History in NYC has an exhibit dedicated to the eradication of Guinea worm (and other disease candidates for eradication). Here’s their video about the disease eradication effort. . .

Continue reading. Video “Countdown to Zero: A Case Study in South Sudan” at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2015 at 2:25 pm

Inspiring story: How First Nations Kids Built Their Own Internet Infrastructure

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It’s very good to read about projects undertaken by a community to meet its own needs. Jordan Pearson reports in Motherboard:

Three years ago, the people living in the Ochiichagwe’Babigo’Ining Ojibway Nation in Ontario would crowd in each other’s homes and outside the band office to access what little internet the community had. There was dial-up, there was expensive cellular data, and there was some service from an internet provider in a neighboring town; when the network went down, it would sometimes take weeks for a technician to come and fix the issue.

The community’s kids—itching to get their gaming systems online and scroll through Facebook on their phones—weren’t having it. So Chad Henry, now 26, gathered a group of five other young people, some just teenagers, and formed a youth council with the mission of bringing high speed internet to their town. And they were going to do it themselves.

Within three months, Henry told me in an interview, the youth council had drafted a business plan, secured funding from the local band, and hired a contractor to build a telecommunications tower. They purchased bandwidth from a small provider, and beamed it from their tower and into the homes of anybody who wanted it—high speed, unlimited bandwidth, and relatively cheap; just $40 a month. That was in 2013.

Two years later, the First Nations community ISP run by teenagers and 20 somethings services 30 homes, and the project is far from finished.

“We want to expand it,” Henry told me. “Right now it’s limited within our community—we only have 60 houses—but there’s a lot of cottages along the Winnipeg River. We want to set up a tower on the south side of our community, to reach Myrtle Rapids and the rest of the cottages along the river.”

The original tower will be upgraded, too, Henry said. Next week, the service will double its speed from 10Mbps to 20Mbps. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2015 at 8:46 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Good shave with 34G and the return of the Ecotools brush

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SOTD 21 Aug 2015

I haven’t used the Ecotools brush for quite a while, but I got a question about it recently and brought it out. I set it aside when the Omega S-Series synthetic brushes appeared: those are around the same price point and better, on the whole, as a shaving brush. But the Ecotools is a fun little brush to use.

My Otoko Organics shaving soap is on its last legs—just a rim of soap hugging the corner around the bottom—but I have a full tub as back-up. And once again I enjoyed the lather.

The Merkur 34G gave an okay shave, but I think the blade in it was due for a change. (I did change the blade following the shave.) I think the 34C (the chrome version) still appeals to many novices, though I find that it is outclassed by the Edwin Jagger (and Mühle R89) and the Parker. Still: not a bad shave at all.

A splash of Alpa 378, and we are rising to the weekend.

Written by Leisureguy

21 August 2015 at 8:02 am

Posted in Shaving

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