Later On

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

Archive for September 16th, 2015

Good discussion of the currents of change in the Catholic church that brought us Pope Francis

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James Carroll’s New Yorker article on Pope Francis and his role within the on-going development of the Catholic church is well worth reading. One error in the article: it notes:

And as Francis demonstrated earlier this month in his surprisingly compassionate statement about abortion—an acknowledgment of “the agonizing and painful” decisions involved in a woman’s choice—his starting point is affirmation, not condemnation.

I appreciate the sentiment, but in fact research shows that abortion decisions for most are neither agonizing nor painful. See this PDF from Planned Parenthood, which begins:

For more than 30 years, substantive research studies have shown that legally induced abortion does not pose mental health problems for women. This finding has been reiterated in rigorous reviews of the scientific literature during the last five years.

In 2011, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (AMRC) in London reviewed all studies about the emotional effects of abortion that had been published in English between 1990 and 2011. Most of the studies in the AMRC’s rigorous, systematic review were conducted in the United States. From the evidence and limitations within this broad range of studies, researchers concluded that

• Unwanted pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of problems with her mental health.

• A woman with an unwanted pregnancy is as likely to have mental health problems from abortion as she is from giving birth.

• A woman with a history of mental health problems before abortion is more likely to have mental health problems after abortion.

• Circumstances, conditions, behaviors, and other factors associated with mental health problems are similar for women following abortion and women following childbirth.

• Pressure from a partner to terminate a pregnancy, negative attitudes about abortion, and negative attitudes about a woman’s experience of abortion may increase a woman’s risk of mental health problems after abortion.

Among its recommendations for further study, the AMRC suggested that researchers focus on the mental health repercussions of unwanted pregnancy rather than on the repercussions of how a woman resolves it (AMRC, 2011). . .

The PDF includes a bibliography of relevant research.

The Guttmacher Institute has an excellent article by Susan Cohen summarizing the research findings around the mental and emotional issues of having an abortion. The article begins:

Most antiabortion activists oppose abortion for moral and religious reasons. In their effort to win broader public support and legitimacy, however, antiabortion leaders frequently assert that abortion is not only wrong, but that it harms women physically and psychologically. Such charges have been made repeatedly for years, but repetition and even acceptance by members of Congress and other high-ranking political officials do not make them true.

Likely because the science attesting to the physical safety of the abortion procedure is so clear, abortion foes have long focused on what they allege are its negative mental health consequences. For decades, they have charged that having an abortion causes mental instability and even may lead to suicide, and despite consistent repudiations from the major professional mental health associations, they remain undeterred. For example, the “postabortion traumatic stress syndrome” that they say is widespread is not recognized by either the American Psychological Association (APA) or the American Psychiatric Association.

To a considerable degree, antiabortion activists are able to take advantage of the fact that the general public and most policymakers do not know what constitutes “good science” (related article, November 2005, page 1). To defend their positions, these activists often cite studies that have serious methodological flaws or draw inappropriate conclusions from more rigorous studies. Admittedly, the body of sound research in this area is relatively sparse because establishing or conclusively disproving a causal relationship between abortion and subsequent behavior is an extremely difficult proposition. Still, it is fair to say that neither the weight of the scientific evidence to date nor the observable reality of 33 years of legal abortion in the United States comports with the idea that having an abortion is any more dangerous to a woman’s long-term mental health than delivering and parenting a child that she did not intend to have or placing a baby for adoption. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 5:10 pm

Posted in Medical, Religion, Science

The US deserves better than the FBI

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The FBI’s ineptitude is amazing, and their vigorous recruitment and financing of incompetent (and sometimes mentally troubled) would-be terrorist simply in order to create crimes the FBI can then forestall is at least problematic. Their incompetence in their forensic lab work has been a scandal. And their inability to understand why secure encryption cannot include “back doors” is astonishing. Surely they must be able to realize that an easy way to break an encryption method assists criminals more than law enforcement.

Now the FBI is telling purely hypothetical horror stories about what might possibly someday happen if the FBI is not allowed to break into encryption they want. They have to tell hypothetical stories because they have no actual stories of any problems. Jenna McLaughlin reports in The Intercept:

Federal law enforcement officials decrying the proliferation of strong encryption said Tuesday that the only reason they lack actual examples of how often it shields criminals is that they’ve done a “bad job” of collecting them.

“I will be the first person to tell you that we’ve done a really bad job collecting empirical data. We need to do a much better job of that,” said Amy Hess, the FBI’s assistant executive director of science and technology, at an encryption debate hosted by Passcode, a new security and privacy blog from the Christian Science Monitor.

Asked how often investigations are stymied by encryption, Kiran Raj, a senior counsel of the Department of Justice, responded with a non-answer. “It is an important point that you make, that we have to provide the sense of a scale,” he said.

Neither Hess nor Raj said what they planned to do about it.

Hess said that data currently available on investigations, including the annual wiretap report indicating that agents encountered encryption only a handful of times during the course of the year, is simply wrong. “The fallacy that that data is built on,” she said, is that “if [agents] think an individual is going to use some sort of encrypted device, they’re not going to pursue it” any further.

Raj said that requests for the content of phone communications — text messages, emails, and more — only come at the end of a very exhaustive list of less intrusive methods. “We call it an investigative technique of last resort,” he said. But when pressed on why there’s no evidence of the number of times agents hit this final wall, he simply said that these are “hard issues.”

Previous examples provided by FBI Director James Comey in October to illustrate the dangers of “going dark” turned out to be almost laughable. Comey acknowledged at the time that he had “asked my folks just to canvas” for examples he could use, “but I don’t think I’ve found that one yet.” Then he immediately added: “I’m not looking.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. cited one possible example in an August New York Times op-ed — where an encrypted mobile phone may have stymied a murder investigation in Illinois — but that seems to be pretty much all anyone has come up with.

The lack of evidence has hardly toned down the rhetoric. [This reminds me of the rhetoric about the “war on cops,” when in fact fewer cops have been killed during the two terms of Obama’s presidency than in any other two terms in a lifetime. – LG]

Continue reading.

In other FBI-related news, a Federal court lifted a National Security Letter gag order, the first time in 14 years for such an action. Jenna McLaughlin is the reporter on that, as well. From The Intercept:

A federal district court judge in New York has fully lifted an 11-year-old gag order that the FBI imposed on Nicholas Merrill, the founder of a small Internet service provider, to prevent him from speaking about a National Security Letter served on him in 2004.

It marked the first time such a gag order has been fully lifted since the USA Patriot Act in 2001 expanded the FBI’s authority to unilaterally demand that certain businesses turn over records simply by writing a letter saying the information is needed for national security purposes.

Like other NSL recipients, Merrill was also instructed that he could not mention the order to anyone.

Merrill said the court ruling allowing him to discuss the details of the sealed request in full will allow him to ignite a debate among Americans about the unchecked surveillance powers of the U.S. government.

“For more than a decade, the FBI has fought tooth and nail in order to prevent me from speaking freely about the NSL I received,” Merrill said in a press release published by the Calyx Institute, where he serves as director.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero’s decision “vindicates the public’s right to know how the FBI uses warrantless surveillance to peer into our digital lives,” Merrill said. “I hope today’s victory will finally allow Americans to engage in an informed debate about proper the scope of the government’s warrantless surveillance powers.”

Merrill and the American Civil Liberties Union launched what turned out to be a long legal battle against the FBI in 2004 in the case “Doe v. Ashcroft”. Merrill finally won the right to reveal his own identity in 2010.

The FBI withdrew its National Security Letter request after Merrill continually refused to comply, but Merrill decided to keep fighting the gag order. Law students and attorneys of the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School represented him in his 2015 case against the Justice Department and the FBI seeking to overturn the gag order.

In his ruling, the judge found no “good reason” to continue to silence Merrill about his experience with the FBI. If Merrill were only allowed to disclose details about the request “in a world in which no threat of terrorism exists,” or in the case that the FBI disclosed the records itself—two extremely unlikely possibilities — it would effectively prevent “accountability of the government to the people,” the judge wrote. . .

Continue reading.

And a paragraph from this article by Evan Osnos in the New Yorker:

The growing use of informants in the campaign against terrorism has drawn criticism from lawyers and activists, and even from some judges; they say that the F.B.I. has used informants to manipulate people who are vulnerable because of mental illness or financial desperation. In a terrorism case in 2011, known as the Newburgh Four, Judge Colleen McMahon faulted the F.B.I. for “trolling among the citizens of a troubled community, offering very poor people money if they will play some role, any role, in criminal activity.” In that case, an informant in Newburgh, New York, offered four men a quarter of a million dollars, a BMW, and other rewards to shoot down military planes, and to set off explosives at two synagogues in the Bronx. They joined the plot. The judge called their actions “beyond despicable,” but, referring to the ringleader, she said that the bureau had manufactured a terrorist out of a former Walmart employee whose “buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in its scope.” (She rejected the prosecutor’s request for life sentences, and sent the accused to prison for twenty-five years, the statutory minimum.)

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 3:30 pm

Breakfast Bites recipe updated again

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I have just updated the Breakfast Bites recipe again. Latest changes:

  • I now buy 10-12 oz of sliced deli ham and cut the stack into little squares to sauté with the onions, using ham instead of sausage in the frittata.
  • On The Wife’s advice, I lined the 8×8 pan with non-stick aluminum foil, tearing off a piece and pressing it into the pan, which in effect makes a little foil pan inside the 8×8 pan, the foil covering the bottom and sides of the pan. After the cooked frittata cools for about 20 minutes, I invert it onto a cooling rack, and it comes easily out of the 8×8 pan, and the non-stick foil peels easily away. A great improvement in ease and convenience.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

Angelina Jordan, born 2006: What a Difference a Day Makes

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For comparison, the Dinah Washington version:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

Texas Student Accused of Bomb Hoax After Making a Clock for Class

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I have to say the teacher, principal, and police seem easily spooked in this report. One peculiarity: the police knew quite well that it was not a bomb—note that they did not call the bomb squad—and the student said it was only a clock. So the student’s arrest strikes one as racist—not that Texas is especially racist or anything.

Needless to say, neither the school nor the police will ever admit error.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 12:09 pm

‘American Red Cross Sunshine Act’ Would Open Charity to Outside Scrutiny

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Excellent idea, and certainly the American Red Cross has no grounds on which to object: the bill merely requires that they do what they should in any case be doing. Justin Elliott of ProPublica and Laura Sullivan of NPR report:

Federal legislation is being unveiled today that would force the American Red Cross to do something that it has repeatedly resisted: open its books and operations to outside scrutiny.

The proposed American Red Cross Sunshine Act comes in response to a government report, also being released today, that finds oversight of the charity lacking and recommends Congress find a way to fill the gap.

Though the Red Cross has a government-mandated role responding to disasters, “no regular, independent evaluations are conducted of the impact or effectiveness of the Red Cross’s disaster services,” the Government Accountability Office report found.

The inquiry cites reporting by ProPublica and NPR about the Red Cross’ failures duringSuperstorm Sandy and misleading statements by CEO Gail McGovern about how the group has spent hundreds of millions of donated dollars.

The 18-month GAO examination was requested by Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who also authored the proposed legislation. The bill would require regular government audits of the Red Cross’ finances, its response to disasters in the United States, and its work abroad.

“The public deserves and needs to know that money is going for which it is intended,” Thompson said in an interview, citing the troubled Red Cross responses after Hurricane Katrina, the earthquake in Haiti, and Superstorm Sandy.

Thompson said in an interview that the Red Cross did not cooperate fully with the inquiry, which the GAO confirmed.

“When you get pushback from the very beginning it creates doubts and suspicion in the minds of a lot of us,” Thompson said.

As we reported, last year McGovern tried unsuccessfully to get Thompson to shut down the inquiry by the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress.

Thompson said that McGovern’s request was the first of its kind he’d gotten in over 20 years in Congress.

The head of the GAO’s inquiry, Andrew Sherrill, said the Red Cross did not give “unfettered access” to investigators. Still, he said the GAO was able to get the information it needed. The report notes that while it reviewed Red Cross policies, it “did not assess the effectiveness or sufficiency” of the charity’s work.

In response to the pushback, Thompson added language to his bill saying the GAO can have access to any Red Cross records, including those related to the group’s “financial transactions and internal governance.”

The Red Cross did not respond to a question about its cooperation with the GAO inquiry. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 11:43 am

Wolfman, Copper Hat, and shave 12 with Meißner Tremonia sample

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SOTD 16 Sept 2015

Still working on using up the Meißner Tremonia sample. Today’s shave is the 12th from the sample. The Copper Hat brush did a wonderful job—and it is a wonderful brush. The handle design makes for excellent comfort and the knot is superb.

I used the asymmetric Wolfman—bar guard on one side, open comb on the other. (It occurs to me that “open comb” is redundant. Combs naturally have teeth with open spaces between the teeth: that’s what makes it a comb rather than, say, a stick.) The two sides have a slightly different feel but the same level of efficiency, so I switch between the sides as I would with a normal razor. The final result was a beautiful BBS, with no problems or nicks.

I finished with a splash of Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera Toner (“toner” means “no alcohol” in Thayer-speak; “astringent” means 10% alcohol).

Great shave, and it’s good to be back. Slept like a rock.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2015 at 8:53 am

Posted in Shaving

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