Later On

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

Archive for April 25th, 2017

Somehow, I’m not surprised: Texas makes it nearly impossible to obtain records in police abuse cases

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Radley Balko reports in the Washington Post:

Here’s a harrowing story out of Texas, where a couple in the town of Mesquite have spent the past several years trying to learn how and why their son died after being arrested by local police.

Kathy and Robert Dyer received the phone call out of every parent’s nightmares at 3 a.m. on Aug. 14, 2013. A Mesquite police officer was telling them their 18-year-old son, Graham, was in the hospital with a serious head injury. They should come as quickly as possible.

They sped in the dark south to Dallas from their home on a dirt road outside of Paris, in Northeast Texas, arriving at Baylor University Medical Center at dawn. Graham lay unresponsive in the intensive care unit beneath a bristle of medical tubes and instrumentation.

Outside his room, Kathy recalled, a group of police officers prevented them from entering: “They said he was in serious trouble — that he had felony charges for assaulting an officer.” The police told her Graham had been out of his mind on LSD and had bitten one of the officers while they were taking him into custody. He’d seriously injured himself inside the police cruiser as they drove to the jail.

Graham eventually died. After the funeral, his parents noticed items in the hospital records that didn’t match the police account the night he was arrested. So they asked police department for records. They were denied.

As the Austin American-Statesman reports, under state law, police agencies aren’t required to turn over records from investigations that don’t result in a conviction. Because Graham is dead, there would be no conviction.

The particularly pernicious thing here is that the law was intended to protect innocent people from being maligned by police investigations that don’t result in criminal charges. Here, it was being used by a police agency to prevent a dead teen’s parents from learning how their son died. The story only gets more frustrating from there.

Civil rights attorneys say that Texas’s unfriendly law enforcement open records law, when combined with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, create a potent legal Catch-22 that can thwart police accountability.

In the past, civilians like the Dyer family pursuing excessive force claims filed lawsuits to shake loose documents from law enforcement agencies that might prove their case. Yet a pair of high court opinions handed down over the past decade have required civil rights lawsuits to contain ever-more detailed facts about the alleged violations.

“The Supreme Court in recent cases has made it clear that a civil rights claim has to be fairly precise in laying out specific facts outlining cause of action,” said Ranjana Natarajan, director the University of Texas Law School’s civil rights clinic. “You have to say what happened, who did what.”

Those can be the very same details that Texas’s records laws currently allow police to withhold. The result: “It’s very difficult for plaintiffs in civil rights lawsuits, especially when the victim has died, to put together a case,” Natarajan said.

With Texas law exempting basic police records from release, families and their lawyers often must conduct their own costly investigations into what happened before they even know if a case is worthy of a lawsuit. “A lot of families never even bother filing civil rights lawsuits because they know they’ll never get enough information,” Natarajan said. “So the courts never hear them.”

You can’t help but wonder if that’s exactly the point. To file a lawsuit, you need details. But you have to file a lawsuit to force the police to release details.

Graham’s parents did finally . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the article:

. . . This problem isn’t limited to Texas. Law enforcement agencies know that federal courts require specificity in these types of lawsuits. So there’s a strong incentive to be as stingy with information as possible. We saw this in Kansas, where a couple wrongly raided by a local SWAT team had to spend $25,000 in attorney and court fees just to get a copy of the affidavit for the search warrant the police obtained for the raid. Last year, I wrote about the case of two Michigan women who were wrongly raided by masked Drug Enforcement Administration agents. The agents never gave their names and weren’t wearing badges or name tags. The women spent nine years trying to get the DEA to reveal the agents’ names. It never did, nor would the federal courts compel the agency to do so. The two women finally lost in court last summer — no names, no lawsuit. . .

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2017 at 5:52 pm

Strengthening one’s resilience in the face of adversity

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Jason Kottke has an interesting review of the new book by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Kottke’s post begins:

Two years ago, Facebook COO and Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg lost her husband to an unexpected death. The loss left her bereft and adrift. Grieving hard, she struggled to figure out how to move forward with her life. The result of her journey is a book co-authored by Adam Grant called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity.

Jessi Hempel’s piece on Sandberg is a good overview on the book and that period in her life, particularly in relation to Sandberg’s return to work and how that changed leadership & communication at Facebook. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2017 at 4:23 pm

The Secret Power of the Cell’s Waste Bin

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Esther Landhuis writes in Quanta:

At a conference in Maine during the summer of 2008, the biochemist David Sabatini stood before an audience of his peers, prepared to dazzle them with a preview of unpublished results emerging from his lab at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The presentation did not go over well. His group was studying mTOR, a cellular enzyme he and colleagues had discovered more than a decade earlier. Among other things, they had tried to find out where mTOR aggregates inside cells, since this seemed likely to help explain the enzyme’s remarkable but mysterious influence over diverse cellular growth processes. Sabatini proudly projected a slide with the team’s findings, showing the enzyme arrayed along the surface of the organelles called lysosomes.

The audience was dubious. “People literally got up and said, ‘David, that’s the trash bin of the cell. It doesn’t make sense. Why decorate the outside of a trash can?” Sabatini recalled.

Over the nine years since Sabatini’s talk, lysosomes have won more respect. Research continues to show that lysosomes transcend the trash can role, acting as crucial advisers to the nucleus in its job of genetic regulation. That leap in status was obvious at the fourth Gordon Research Conference on Lysosomal Diseases, held March 5-10 in Barga, Italy. The lysosome was also celebrated in a paper that appeared last October in Annual Reviews of Cell and Developmental Biology, “The Lysosome as a Regulatory Hub.” Its authors, the San Francisco Bay Area researchers Rushika Perera and Roberto Zoncu, observed that recent studies have “raised the status of the lysosome from a catabolic dead end to a key signaling node, with far-reaching implications for our understanding of the logic of metabolic regulation both in health and in disease.”

In this loftier reckoning of lysosomes, the organelles deftly integrate metabolic information from throughout the cell and communicate it to the nucleus. Like snooping garbage collectors who learn the secrets of all the homeowners on their route, lysosomes gain a uniquely informed perspective on a cell’s status by picking through its molecular discards. And some of the finely tuned genetic controls of the nucleus would possibly be pilotless without them.

Lysosomes first drew attention in the 1950s, when the Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve stumbled across the saclike intracellular structures while trying to purify a protein found in rat livers. He named the previously unknown sacs after the Greek for “digestive body” because their contents were highly acidic and filled with enzymes that break down virtually any biomolecule that’s set before them. De Duve received a Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1974, but biologists were unenthusiastic about the organelle. Researchers nicknamed the lysosome “the recycle bin of the cell, or the trash can — nothing interesting,” said Zoncu, a biochemist at the University of California, Berkeley.

It wasn’t that lysosomes didn’t seem important — waste disposal systems inevitably are. They are responsible for digesting a cell’s damaged, malformed, superfluous or otherwise undesirable proteins and organelles, along with excess sugars and fats. When genetic defects cause lysosomes to make too little of any of the 60 or more enzymes associated with them, waste products pile up inside cells and cause lysosomal storage diseases, such as Tay-Sachs, Niemann-Pick and other disorders. Moreover, as a series of experiments led by Yoshinori Ohsumi (first at the University of Tokyo, then at Japan’s National Institute for Basic Biology) demonstrated in the 1990s, lysosomes are also instrumental in the vital process of autophagy, which allows cells to cannibalize their own organelles for resources in times of need and to combat the effects of illness and aging. That work brought Ohsumi a Nobel Prize in 2016 — a second Nobel to be awarded for work involving the cell’s lowly trash can.

But in the 1980s, when Andrea Ballabio, the founder of the Telethon Institute of Genetics and Medicine in Naples, was starting out in biological research, studies of the lysosome focused almost exclusively on what goes on inside it. He recalls the field as heavily and narrowly disease driven: Lysosome investigators purified enzymes that were deficient or dysfunctional in specific lysosomal storage disorders.

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2017 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Very nice inexpensive TTO safety razor, with Van Yulay After Dark

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The razor shown is the Baili BD179, which I purchased from Italian Barber, where it is called RazoRock Quick-Change DE Safety Razor and sells for $10. It’s a hefty little guy. I thought at first it was stainless steel and could not figure how it could be priced so low, but it is an electroplated alloy (of what, it’s not said). The action is smooth, and the workmanship (fit and finish) are extremely good. Gillette TTO owners will be interested to know that there are no endcaps to come off and be lost. (Some Gillette TTOs also omit endcaps, but you see them on the Super Speeds and the Fat Boy and Slim Handle and Super Adjustable.)

So, how does it shave?

I used my Van Yulay After Dark shaving soap and the marvelous Omega 21762 boar brush, easily getting a very nice and very slick lather. The soap’s ingredients:

Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Castor, Glycerin, Potassium Hydroxide, Coconut-Emu-Babassu-Olive-Argan-Jojoba-Oils, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, Allantoin, Silica, Liquid Silk, Bentonite Clay, Essential Oil, and EO’s and Fragrance.

Not vegan because of the emu oil, but a very nice soap indeed.

With prep complete, I set to work with the razor. It came with a pack of Derby Extra blades, but I went with Personna Lab Blue. The razor is very comfortable and also efficient (though not so efficient as some). It did a fine job, and I think this would be an excellent razor for a novice who wants a TTO razor.

I am still surprised by the heft, fit, and finish. Definitely worth $10.

A splash of After Dark aftershave splash, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

25 April 2017 at 10:03 am

Posted in Shaving

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