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Archive for March 18th, 2017

How North Korea would retaliate

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Stratfor takes a look:


Editor’s Note: This is the fourth installment of a five-part series that originally ran in May 2016 examining the measures that could be taken to inhibit North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The purpose of this series is not to consider political rhetoric or noninvasive means of coercion, such as sanctions. Rather, we are exploring the military options, however remote, that are open to the United States and its allies, and the expected response from Pyongyang. Part five can be found here.

North Korea is powerless to prevent a U.S. strike on its nuclear program, but retaliation is well within its means. The significant military capability that North Korea has built up against South Korea is not advanced by Western standards, but there are practical ways Pyongyang could respond to aggression.

The North Korean military’s most powerful tool is artillery. It cannot level Seoul as some reports have claimed, but it could do significant damage. Pyongyang risks deteriorating its forces by exposing them to return fire, however, which significantly restricts their use. Less conventional methods of retaliation, such as sabotage or cyber warfare, are less risky but also limit the shock that North Korea would desire.


After a strike, North Korea’s most immediate and expected method of retaliation would center around conventional artillery. Many of the North’s indirect fire systems are already located on or near the border with South Korea. By virtue of proximity and simplicity, these systems have a lower preparatory and response times than air assets, larger ballistic missiles or naval assets. Nevertheless, there are several critical limitations to their effectiveness.

Tube and Rocket Artillery

The biggest anticipated cost of a North Korean artillery barrage in response to an attack would be the at least partial destruction of Seoul. But the volume of fire that the North can direct against the South Korean capital is limited by some important factors. Of the vast artillery force deployed by the North along the border, only a small portion — Koksan 170-mm self-propelled guns, as well as 240-mm and 300-mm multiple launch rocket systems — are capable of actually reaching Seoul. Broadly speaking, the bulk of Pyongyang’s artillery can reach only into the northern border area of South Korea or the northern outskirts of Seoul. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 6:32 pm

South Carolina police shot a man to pieces over $100 worth of pot, then lied about it

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South Carolina seems like a good state to avoid. Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

In my series on policing in South Carolina last year, I noted the story of Julian Betton, a Myrtle Beach man who was raided by a multi-jurisdictional drug task force after allegedly making two $50 pot sales to a friend who, unbeknownst to him, also happened to be a police informant. There were some new developments in the case this week. But first, some background:

After forcing Betton’s door down with a battering ram, members of the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit fired at least 57 bullets at the then-31-year-old Betton, hitting him nine times. A summary of Betton’s injuries:

He ended up losing his gallbladder and parts of his bowel, colon and rectum. The bullets also damaged his liver, small intestine and pancreas. His lung partially collapsed. His left leg was broken. One of his vertebrae was partially destroyed; two others were fractured. He’ll never walk again or be able to have kids of his own. He’ll also need to use a colostomy bag for the rest of his life.

The police claimed that they knocked and announced themselves several times before entering Betton’s home. Only after those knocks and announcements did they force down his door. At that point, they said, Betton fired a handgun at them, giving them no choice but to empty their guns into him.

That story was always suspicious. Betton was at worst a small-time pot dealer. It just wouldn’t make much sense for him to knowingly fire a handgun at a raid team of a dozen cops. Even if he were the sort willing to kill a law enforcement officer over some pot, he was massively out-armed and out-manned.

And as it turns out, Betton didn’t fire on them. Ballistics tests later showed that his gun had never been fired. The cops then altered their story to say that Betton merely pointed his gun at them.

That still didn’t make much sense. The police claimed he did this after they made repeated knocks and announcements, and that they were wearing uniforms clearly indicating that they were law enforcement. This again would have had Betton knowingly taking on a well-armed, well-equipped tactical team with a handgun over a comparatively small amount of pot — but this time only pointing the gun at them.  Also suspicious: The task force members gave strikingly similar, almost word-for-word accounts of the raid. The police also confronted one of Betton’s neighbor’s as they approached the house. That neighbor would later say he had no idea the raid team was law enforcement, and he thought he was being robbed. If the neighbor didn’t know the raid team were police officers, it’s hard to see how Betton should have.

And as it turns out, much of the rest of the raid team’s story was false, too. The officers were apparently unaware of the fact that Betton had a security camera. Footage of the first moments of the raid shows that the first officers into the house had no insignia on their clothes indicating they were law enforcement. The first officers are wearing dark tops with light slacks. One is wearing a backward baseball cap, another a balaclava hood. Moreover, the video clearly shows that no officer knocked on Betton’s door before the battering ram smashed it open. The video has no sound, so it’s difficult to say if the police announced themselves. But they did not have a no-knock warrant, which means they were obligated to knock, announce themselves and wait a sufficient period of time before entering. The courts haven’t said exactly how long police are required to wait, but it’s generally thought to be at least 10 seconds. The cops who raided Betton didn’t knock. And if they announced, it was within just a few seconds of smashing down his door, and then shooting him.

In short, even if Betton did point a gun at the raiding officers, given that they didn’t properly announced themselves, he would have been legally permitted to do so. But given that the police lied about him firing the gun, their uniforms, and knocking and announcing, it’s difficult to put much faith in their claims that he pointed the gun at them.

Curiously, several members of the raid team were wearing body cameras. Oddly, all of the officers who had body cameras activated them at the same time — not before the raid began, but after Betton had been shot.

This week, Betton pleaded guilty to one count of marijuana distribution and another charge of possession with intent to distribute. All of the gun charges against him were dropped. That seems significant. Generally, prosecutors don’t tread lightly on people accused of assaulting or pointing guns at police officers. For the marijuana charges, Betton was sentenced to five years in prison for each count, which the judge suspended.

All of the officers involved in the raid on Julian Betton were later cleared by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the state police agency that investigates shootings and allegations of misconduct by police officers. My series last year looked at a number of cases in which SLED investigations of officer-involved shootings were at best sloppy, and at worst reeked of cops covering for other cops. The SLED report of the Betton raid made only cursory mention of Betton’s surveillance footage. It doesn’t mention that the footage pretty clearly contradicts the officers’ account of what happened. The officers were never punished for their false claims about Betton firing his gun, the false claims about their uniforms, or their failure to knock and announce before battering down Betton’s door, which was a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

Betton’s lawsuit against the task force is still pending. Recently, . . .

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Raid video at the link.

Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 5:32 pm

Murder or Self-Defense if Officer Is Killed in Raid?

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Another article in a look at SWAT raids. Kevin Sack writes in the NY Times:

SOMERVILLE, Tex. — Joshua Aaron Hall had been a resident of the Burleson County Jail for about a week when he requested a meeting with Gene Hermes, the sheriff’s investigator who had locked him up for violating probation. The stocky lawman arrived in the featureless interview room on the morning of Dec. 13, 2013, placed his soda cup on the table and apologized for not getting there sooner. He asked in his gravelly drawl if they would be talking about Mr. Hall’s own case.

“No,” said Mr. Hall, a methamphetamine user and petty criminal who was facing his most serious jail time. “I want to give you something else.”

Mr. Hall reminded the investigator that they had spoken previously about the narcotics trade in the vast flatlands of central Texas. “Gene, you said you wanted to eradicate the problem,” Mr. Hall said. “And I’ve been thinking for the past couple of days that, you know, maybe I’m put in this position to help you do this.”

“All right,” the investigator said.

“I know of an illegal grow operation,” Mr. Hall volunteered.

Investigator Hermes nodded. “Big grow, small grow?”

“It’s kind of small,” Mr. Hall said, before catching himself. “But that ain’t the point. It’s illegal. Weapons are involved.”

The scruffy informant, outfitted in black-and-white stripes, told the investigator that he had a friend named Henry Magee who lived in a double-wide trailer off Deer Running Road in Somerville. Mr. Magee, he said, had been cultivating marijuana hydroponically in the front left bedroom. When Mr. Hall had last been there, not long before his arrest, he had seen a dozen six-foot stalks ready for harvest.

“I mean, you open the door and it reeks like weed,” he said.

He told the investigator that Mr. Magee went by Hank, and that he was white and close to 30 years old. He had a girlfriend and worked intermittently as a roughneck in the oil fields. When off the rigs, he liked to ride dirt bikes and shoot guns out behind his trailer.

Mr. Hall skirted any direct negotiation for leniency until the end of the conversation. “I don’t need prison,” he suggested, scratching his scalp. “I need rehab, man.”

“That’s going to be up to the courts; you know that,” Investigator Hermes replied.

He tapped his pen on his notepad. Had Mr. Magee ever said what he would do if law enforcement showed up?

“He’s a laid-back guy, he really is,” Mr. Hall answered. Then again, he said, he had seen two rifles and three handguns at Mr. Magee’s place: “I mean, the boy is ready for war — with who I don’t know. I’m just giving you that information because if the boy does grab a hold of a gun, try not to shoot him.”

The investigator answered dryly, “Yeah, I don’t wake up every day wanting to shoot somebody.”

“But I can understand if y’all’s life is put in danger,” Mr. Hall said.

“Right,” the deputy said, “well, that’s a bad thing when somebody grabs a gun when we walk up.”

ALREADY SADDLED WITH A HEAVY CASELOAD, Investigator Hermes shared a video of the interview with a colleague, Fredrich Adam Sowders.

Burly and bearish, with a close-cropped sponge of ginger hair, Investigator Sowders (pronounced SO-durs) had spent all of his 31 years kicking about the prairie dust of Burleson County (population 17,000, and 53,000 cattle). His family was well known in Somerville, where his grandfather had owned the Gulf station and his mother managed the Wine & Roses florist shop.

Investigator Sowders had been drawn to law enforcement since at least age 16, when he followed his father and grandfather into volunteer firefighting. While other boys studied baseball cards, young Adam memorized police scanner codes. He had joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2006, after a stint as a town police officer. The sheriff named him officer of the year in 2011 and promoted him to sergeant investigator in 2013. Friends and fellow officers called him Big A.

The investigators knew Mr. Hall was untested as an informant. But there is nothing in court documents to suggest that they took steps to corroborate his story, or even to pull his criminal record. Nor did they arrange for a “controlled buy” through an undercover agent. Their sleuthing, it seems, consisted largely of driving past Mr. Magee’s trailer to take photographs.

Nonetheless, five days after getting the tip, Investigator Sowders consulted the district attorney’s office and typed an application for a search warrant. In a three-page affidavit, he summarized Mr. Hall’s allegations and described the trailer’s location. He closed by asking for authority to raid the residence without first knocking on the door, a tactic allowed by the Supreme Court when the police demonstrate a “reasonable suspicion” that announcing themselves beforehand would be dangerous or risk destruction of evidence.

The deputy omitted Mr. Hall’s description of his “laid-back” friend, and wrote,“Hall advised that Magee has made the statement that he is not afraid to use the weapons that he has.”

The affidavit also did not disclose that Mr. Hall was trying to cut a deal from jail. Instead, Investigator Sowders wrote that the interview took place “at the Sheriff’s Office” (which is in the same building). He did not mention that Mr. Magee had no record of violence, only misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession and intoxicated driving. The affidavit also did not disclose, because the investigators did not know, that Mr. Magee’s girlfriend, Kori White, was four months pregnant.

That afternoon, the deputy had the warrant signed by a district judge, Reva L. Towslee Corbett. It authorized him “to dispense with the usual requirement that you will knock and announce your purpose before entering.” . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 3:37 pm

More soaps—and an apothecary mug—go to auction

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You can see all twelve soaps and read about them on eBay.

Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 1:10 pm

Posted in Shaving

Door-Busting Drug Raids Leave a Trail of Blood

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Kevin Sack reports in the NY Times, with some graphic videos included at the link. The article begins:

CORNELIA, Ga. — This town on the edge of the Appalachians has fewer than 5,000 residents, but the SWAT team was outfitted for war.

At 2:15 a.m. on a moonless night in May 2014, 10 officers rolled up a driveway in an armored Humvee, three of them poised to leap off the running boards. They carried Colt submachine guns, light-mounted AR-15 rifles and Glock .40-caliber sidearms. Many wore green body armor and Kevlar helmets. They had a door-breaching shotgun, a battering ram, sledgehammers, Halligan bars for smashing windows, a ballistic shield and a potent flash-bang grenade.

The target was a single-story ranch-style house about 50 yards off Lakeview Heights Circle. Not even four hours earlier, three informants had bought $50 worth of methamphetamine in the front yard. That was enough to persuade the county’s chief magistrate to approve a no-knock search warrant authorizing the SWAT operators to storm the house without warning.

The point man on the entry team found the side door locked, and nodded to Deputy Jason Stribling, who took two swings with the metal battering ram. As the door splintered near the deadbolt, he yelled, “Sheriff’s department, search warrant!” Another deputy, Charles Long, had already pulled the pin on the flash-bang. He placed his left hand on Deputy Stribling’s back for stability, peered quickly into the dark and tossed the armed explosive about three feet inside the door.

It landed in a portable playpen.

As policing has militarized to fight a faltering war on drugs, few tactics have proved as dangerous as the use of forcible-entry raids to serve narcotics search warrants, which regularly introduce staggering levels of violence into missions that might be accomplished through patient stakeouts or simple knocks at the door.

Thousands of times a year, these “dynamic entry” raids exploit the element of surprise to effect seizures and arrests of neighborhood drug dealers. But they have also led time and again to avoidable deaths, gruesome injuries, demolished property, enduring trauma, blackened reputations and multimillion-dollar legal settlements at taxpayer expense, an investigation by The New York Times found.

For the most part, governments at all levels have chosen not to quantify the toll by requiring reporting on SWAT operations. But The Times’s investigation, which relied on dozens of open-record requests and thousands of pages from police and court files, found that at least 81 civilians and 13 law enforcement officers died in such raids from 2010 through 2016. Scores of others were maimed or wounded.

The casualties have occurred in the execution of no-knock warrants, which give the police prior judicial authority to force entry without notice, as well as warrants that require the police to knock and announce themselves before breaking down doors. Often, there is little difference.

Innocents have died in attacks on wrong addresses, including a 7-year-old girl in Detroit, and collaterally as the police pursued other residents, among them a 68-year-old grandfather in Framingham, Mass. Stray bullets have whizzed through neighboring homes, and in dozens of instances the victims of police gunfire have included the family dog.

Search warrant raids account for a small share of the nearly 1,000 fatalities each year in officer-involved shootings. But what distinguishes them from other risky interactions between the police and citizens, like domestic disputes, hostage-takings and confrontations with mentally ill people, is that they are initiated by law enforcement.

In a country where four in 10 adults have guns in their homes, the raids incite predictable collisions between forces that hurtle toward each other like speeding cars in a passing lane — officers with a license to invade private homes and residents convinced of their right to self-defense.

After being awakened by the shattering of doors and the detonation of stun grenades, bleary suspects reach for nearby weapons — at times realizing it is the police, at others mistaking them for intruders — and the shooting begins. In some cases, victims like Todd Blair, a Utah man who grabbed a golf club on the way out of his bedroom, have been slain by officers who perceived a greater threat than existed. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 12:08 pm

How blind auditions help orchestras to eliminate gender bias

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It’s common for someone with strong biases to be unaware of them—to him (or her) the biases are invisible and they believe they are simply picking the best performer, who apparently is always male. Curt Rice had a nice write-up in the Guardian a few years back, and it’s worth reading with an eye to see what sort of gender-blind devices might help in your situation (e.g., recruitment, performance evaluations, promotions). The article begins:

Bias cannot be avoided, we just can’t help ourselves. Research shows that we apply different standards when we compare men and women. While explicit discrimination certainly exists, perhaps the more arduous task is to eliminate our implicit biases — the ones we don’t even realise we have.

After all, if you were making a decision about hiring someone or giving an employee a pay rise, wouldn’t you like to be fair? Don’t you think you should carry out your evaluation using only criteria that actually matter?

A lot of us think we can make evaluations based on quality alone. But the research suggests otherwise. So how might you make sure that your implicit biases are kept at bay?

Gender blind evaluations

You could try to do your evaluation without knowing the sex of the person you’re evaluating. If you didn’t know whether the applicant was a man or a woman, then your biases shouldn’t be triggered. Needless to say, it’s quite difficult to set up a process that truly is gender blind.

An interview makes it impossible. But even written descriptions of applicants contain hints about the sex of the person. The most obvious, of course, is the name, but there are other subtle indicators there, too.

Letters of recommendation that don’t use first names may nonetheless reveal the sex of the person being written about. Women get described as caring about their students or clients, while men are said to have strong relationships with those groups. It’s unplanned, it’s not intended, but we do it. And when we do, we give different impressions about the qualifications of applicants.

If we could avoid interviews and steer clear of using written profiles to review candidates, maybe we could stay gender neutral. Except, what would then be the basis for our decisions? Here’s where the orchestras come into play.

Sexism in orchestras

Over the past several decades, orchestras have started changing the way they hire musicians. One of these changes was designed to eliminate bias against women.

It would be hard to deny that there was such a bias in the composition of orchestras. As late as 1970, the top five orchestras in the U.S. had fewer than 5% women. It wasn’t until 1980 that any of these top orchestras had 10% female musicians. But by 1997 they were up to 25% and today some of them are well into the 30s. What is the source of this change? Have they added jobs? Have they focused on work that appeals to women?

The size of a major orchestra is quite stable; they all have around 100 musicians. Furthermore, the types of jobs do not change. The increase in the number of women cannot be attributed to a redistribution giving the orchestra fewer bassists — traditionally played by men — and more harpists — where more women are found.

Blind auditions

In the 1970s and 1980s, orchestras began using blind auditions. Candidates are situated on a stage behind a screen to play for a jury that cannot see them. In some orchestras, blind auditions are used just for the preliminary selection while others use it all the way to the end, until a hiring decision is made.

Even when the screen is only used for the preliminary round, it has a powerful impact; researchers have determined that this step alone makes it 50% more likely that a woman will advance to the finals. . .

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Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 12:05 pm

Derby does it again: Phoenix Bakelite slant tamed!

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The Phoenix Bakelite slant has also been on the back rack due to nicking, but since a Derby blade solved the Fine Superlite problem, I gave it a go this morning with the Bakelite slant.

First, of course, the prep: H.L. Thäter brush, a very nice little compact brush. I loaded it will with Van Yulay’s Puros de Habana shaving soap, which has a very pleasant cigar aroma and makes a dynamite lather. Oddly, although the brush was well loaded, I had no lather for the third pass. I reloaded, finished the shave, and then rinsed the brush well. As I felt the wet bristles, the brush felt oddly oily, and oil might account for the early lather-death. So I used a shampoo to wash out the brush well, rinsed it thoroughly, and then shampooed it again. I will see how it works now on the same soap. (I think I did identify the problem, and I have no idea how the brush became oily—perhaps when I was experimenting with a shaving oil.)

The Phoenix Bakelite performed like a champ. It’s still not so comfortable for me as some of my other slants, but it did not feel as if it was about to nick, and it did not in fact nick me. I got a very smooth result with no nicks. Now I want to try a Derby in the Maggard slant.

A good splash of Phoenix Artisan’s Cavendish to carry on the tobacco theme, though this is clearly a pipe tobacco fragrance and not a cigar. I really like this aftershave.

The weekend begins.

Written by Leisureguy

18 March 2017 at 10:50 am

Posted in Shaving

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