Later On

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

Archive for November 9th, 2017

Deriving design from evolution’s results: Biomimicry

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 3:49 pm

The Giant Magellan Telescope: A perfect mirror

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Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 3:36 pm

Posted in Science, Technology

Diana Nyad: My Life After Sexual Assault

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Diana Nyad, the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida and the author, most recently, of the memoir “Find a Way,writes in the NY Times:

Here I was, a strong-willed young athlete. There he was, a charismatic pillar of the community. But I’m the one who, all these many years later, at the age of 68, no matter how happy and together I may be, continues to deal with the rage and the shame that comes with being silenced.

My particular case mirrors countless others. I was 14. A naïve 14, in 1964. I don’t think I could have given you a definition of intercourse.

My swimming coach was in many ways the father I had always yearned for. I met him when I was 10, and those first four years were marked by a strong mentor-student bond. He repeatedly told me I had all the talents to one day rock the world. I worshiped my coach. His word was The Word. I built a pedestal for him and gazed up at the center of my universe.

That summer, our school hosted the state championships. It was a big deal, and I was a star in the middle of it all. In between the afternoon preliminaries and the night finals, bursting with confidence, I went over to Coach’s house for a nap. This was normal: Coach’s house, his family, his kids were all part of the swim team’s daily milieu.

I was dead asleep in the master bedroom when it happened. Out of nowhere, he was on top of me. He yanked my suit down. He grabbed at and drooled onto my breasts. He hyperventilated and moaned. I didn’t breathe for perhaps two full minutes, my body locked in an impenetrable flex. My arms trembled, pinned to my sides. He pleaded with me to open my legs, but they were pressed hard together. If breath gives us force, that day I could feel the strength in my body from the polar opposite — from not breathing. He ejaculated on my stomach, my athletic torso I was so proud of now suddenly violated with this strange and foul stuff.

As he slinked out of the room, I gasped for air, as if I had just been held underwater for those two minutes. I vomited onto the floor.

That night I was not of this world. Teammates had to prompt me to get onto the blocks. I hadn’t heard the announcer’s voice. In the end, we won the team title, but while the team was cheering and laughing, I plunged down to the floor of the diving well. My young world had just been capsized and I was very much alone in my confusion and fear. And I screamed into the abyss of dark water: “This is not going to ruin my life!”

I might have defied ruin, but my young life changed dramatically that day. That first savage episode signaled the beginning of years of covert molestation. Throughout the rest of high school I was a loner, not a natural role for me. No longer did I hold the unofficial title of “most disciplined” on the team, the first to practice each dawn. I couldn’t chance being alone with Coach again. I sat through classes, distracted by an image of hacking my breasts off with a razor blade. Overnight, I began going through life a solitary soldier. I didn’t need anybody, for anything.

Mine is an age-old scenario. Coaches and priests and doctors and scout leaders and stepfathers and, yes, movie producers, have been preying on those they are supposedly mentoring for far too long. And this isn’t the first time I’ve told my story. I first gave voice to the details of the years of humiliation when I was 21; the sense of power it gave me was immediate.

For me, being silenced was a punishment equal to the molestation. Legal prosecution proved time and time again to be futile, but I could at least . . .

Continue reading.

And do read the comments, too.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Daily life

A bunch of innocent people got murdered. What should we do?

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From Facebook: The Other 98%.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Daily life

Why has Fox News abandoned Benghazi?

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Eric Wemple writes in the Washington Post:

It was December 2012, just a few months after terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya. Sean Hannity of Fox News was continuing his extensive coverage of the attack, as well as his denunciations of what he viewed as less inquisitive media peers. “We will continue to follow the story that the mainstream media ignores. We have four dead Americans, including two SEALs and the first ambassador killed in 30 years. And, obviously, a cover-up. And we will get to the bottom of it,” he said.

The fiery Fox News host now has an ally in that noble pursuit. There’s a trial well underway at the D.C. federal courthouse in which Libyan Ahmed Abu Khattala stands accused of conspiracy to support terrorism, among other charges, in the September 2012 attacks that quickly became a divisive political issue in the United States, with then-President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, pilloried for various alleged acts of incompetence and deception.

Truth is dribbling out of the now-six-week-long trial. We’re discovering that the United States paid a Libyan informant $7 million to secure key information from Khattala. The relationship between informant and suspect developed over many months and proved critical in assisting U.S. forces in capturing Khattala. Under the pseudonym of Ali Majrisi, the informant spoke at trial of how Khattala intended to kill “everyone there” at the Benghazi installation, a bloody ambition that extended to a rescue force that U.S. officials had sent that night from Tripoli. In other testimony, CIA officers detailed efforts to rescue U.S. personnel under attack in the Libyan city.

Good thing Fox News is there to finish the obsessive work it started, to provide a day-by-day narration of U.S. law enforcement bringing American justice to an alleged terrorist.

Um, actually: Those trial updates cited above come from Adam Goldman of the New York Times and Spencer S. Hsu of The Washington Post, both of whom have filed dispatches over the course of this lengthy trial. As for Fox News, there was this dispatch on the trial’s opening statements. There was this Associated Press story on about the trial’s possible impact on proposals to send terrorism suspects to Guantanamo Bay. And another dispatch, also from the APAnother dispatch, also from the AP. (There’s been other coverage of charges against another suspect in the attacks, Mustafa al-Imam.)

Fox News, outsourcing its Benghazi reporting to the AP? This is the same AP, mind you, that former Fox News chief Roger Ailes disparaged years ago. “It tips left all the time now,” said Ailes, who was bounced from Fox News over sexual harassment claims in 2016 and died this year.

As far as TV coverage, a Nexis search for “Benghazi and Khattala” over the past three months yields just one small mention — four sentences — on the Oct. 2 edition of “Special Report with Bret Baier.” (Nexis covers mostly prime-time shows). If Fox News’s trial coverage were consistent with its previous volume, it would be doing hourly updates from the trial, live blogs and promos, plus round-the-clock commentary on its opinion shows.

Instead, we’re stuck with the “cover-up” gang, as Hannity might say. The New York Times’ Goldman says, “I think the New York Times and The Washington Post and the mainstream media recognized the importance of covering this trial. It was a devastating terrorist attack. Four American lives were lost. We should cover this for the public. So I’m a little surprised that other American media outlets aren’t covering this trial to provide their readers or viewers with real facts.”

The drop-off is stark and inexplicable. In the 20 months following the attacks, Fox News ran in excess of 1,000 segments on Benghazi, according to a September 2014 report by Media Matters. The focus remained intact even after that, spiking upon the release of the “13 Hours” book and movie — a compelling account from the security operators who saved many American lives that night. “This movie, if it’s really popular, is going to force [Hillary Clinton] to answer some questions,” said Steve Doocy on “Fox & Friends” about the movie, which premiered during the 2016 presidential primary season.

So, why would Fox News go nuts about a Benghazi movie in early 2016, yet yawn over a Benghazi trial in 2017?  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 1:08 pm

Posted in GOP, Media, Terrorism

Are prosecutors obligated to present only evidence they believe to be true?

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Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post:

You might think that, from an ethical standpoint, prosecutors should believe that the evidence they put in front of juries is actually true and accurate. After all, they’re state employees, paid with public funds, and they’re entrusted with enormous power. At the very least, we should expect them not only to refrain from putting forth evidence they know to be false but also to exercise some due diligence to ensure that everything they tell jurors is true.

As it turns out, that just isn’t the case. Two recent stories at the Marshall Project illustrate the problem. The first, from Andrew Cohen, concerns Paysun Long, an Illinois man convicted for a 2001 murder at a housing development in Peoria. There was no physical evidence linking Long to the crime, only the testimony of four eyewitnesses, two of whom later recanted. Incredibly, prosecutors showed jurors video of the two recanting eyewitnesses’ original claims, without telling them that those witnesses had since changed their stories. The defense then had to call those witnesses so that the jury could hear their recantations. Long’s first conviction was later overturned because a prosecutor told the jury that the recanting witnesses had done so out of fear, which wasn’t true.

At the second trial, it was more of the same. Prosecutors again showed jurors video of the recanting witnesses’ testimony, and again refused to tell them they had recanted. One of the recanting witnesses changed her story again, this time implicating Long. She then lied on the witness stand, claiming she never said at Long’s first trial that she had recanted. In short, prosecutors allowed the jury to hear evidence they knew was false or misleading and simply left it to Long’s defense attorneys to correct the record.

As Cohen points out, there’s plenty of precedent laying out a prosecutor’s obligation to correct witnesses who give false statements. But that precedent has no enforcement mechanism. And if the courts don’t want to enforce it, a defendant is out of luck. From Cohen:

When Long appealed up the ladder in Illinois the appellate judges there agreed that prosecutors were required to correct [the witness] Irby’s false testimony but that this was a “harmless error” because of other evidence in the case (the other evidence being, remember, the shaky testimony of the only other eyewitness who never recanted). So Long’s conviction and sentence were ratified by the state. He then took his case to federal court and argued that Illinois’s rulings against him were so “contrary” to the Supreme Court’s precedents in Napue and Giglio that the feds had a duty to rescue him from the result of the second trial.

Long appealed in federal court, where he lost.

For the five judges in the majority, it came down to this: Those old cases, the ones in which the justices declared that prosecutors had an affirmative obligation to tell jurors about lying witnesses, didn’t really mean what they said. If the false testimony wasn’t elicited by prosecutors, or if the truth wasn’t known to the defense during trial, or if the prosecutor asked jurors to rely on the false testimony, or if the jury never learned the truth then, yes, perhaps, the Illinois courts had gotten it wrong about Long’s case and he was entitled to relief.

But that’s not what happened here, the 7th Circuit’s majority ruled. Even if prosecutors remained silent during Long’s trial defense attorneys pointed out Irby’s perjurious testimony. And Long’s prosecutors didn’t exactly rely on Irby’s testimony so much as muddy its import during closing argument. Maybe the prosecutor’s failure or refusal to correct Irby’s testimony actually helped Long because it allowed his attorneys to be the ones to portray Irby as a perjurer, the majority argued, glossing over the likelihood that the perjury would have been more credible if admitted by the prosecutor.

Long’s attorneys wouldn’t tell me if they plan to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. But it seems an obvious avenue of appeal, giving the justices an opportunity to reaffirm the principle they announced in 1959 and in 1972, that the government has a constitutional and ethical obligation to ensure that it speaks out against perjury when it unfolds in the middle of a trial in front of the jury.

In the second article, from Ken Armstrong, two men who participated in an armed robbery that resulted in a woman being shot to death were both tried for murder. The same prosecutor then argued at each man’s trial that he — and not the other — was the one who pulled the trigger. Both things can’t possibly be true. Which means that the prosecutor knew he was presenting false evidence in at least one of the trials. He may not have known which one. But that’s beside the point.

Armstrong found this sort of thing happens more often than you might expect.

There’s no saying exactly how often. But, in a recent canvass of court rulings, I turned up more than four dozen cases, from California to Massachusetts, in which the defense attorney argued in an appeal that the prosecution had told conflicting stories about the crime. Prosecutors have offered contradictory theories about which defendant stabbed someone with a knife, or chopped a woman’s skull with a hatchet, or held a man’s head underwater. The most common scenario involves a fatal shot: the prosecutor puts the gun in the hand of one defendant, then another. Under the legal principle of accomplice liability, a defendant can be convicted of murder without being the killer. But, if the prosecutor says that a defendant pulled the trigger, it’s easier to ask a judge or a jury for a death sentence. At least twenty-nine men have been condemned in cases in which defense attorneys accused prosecutors of presenting contradictory theories. To date, seven of those twenty-nine have been executed.

The courts have frowned on this tactic, but rarely overturn convictions when it’s used. Again from Armstrong:

The descriptions applied by judges include “unseemly,” “unseemly at best,” “troubling,” “deeply troubling,” and “mighty troubling.” “The state cannot divide and conquer in this manner,” a federal appeals-court judge wrote in one Georgia case, in which the court threw out a defendant’s conviction on other grounds. “Such actions reduce criminal trials to mere gamesmanship and rob them of their supposed purpose of a search for truth.”

In 2004, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned John David Stumpf’s conviction in the murder of Mary Jane Stout, writing, “Inconsistent theories render convictions unreliable.” The state appealed, and on April 19, 2005, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Stumpf’s case. Justice David Souter said, of the prosecution’s contradictory theories, “It has to be the case that one of those arguments, if accepted, would lead to a false result.” Souter asked how the use of conflicting arguments could square with due process. Justice Antonin Scalia said that he saw no such problem: “Due process doesn’t mean perfection. It doesn’t mean that each jury has to always reach the right result.” …

Two months later, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion, written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, affirming Stumpf’s conviction while avoiding the due-process question. Under Ohio’s law on aiding and abetting, Stumpf could have been convicted of aggravated murder no matter who fired the gun. The question, the Court determined, was whether the prosecution’s inconsistency should invalidate Stumpf’s death sentence. The Sixth Circuit had not tackled that issue, so the Supreme Court sent the case back for an answer. To this day, the Supreme Court has not ruled squarely on the validity of conflicting prosecution theories.

I encountered this problem several years ago while reporting a story about a family in Church Point, La., who had been convicted in federal court of running a massive drug operation. Ann Colomb and three of her sons were convicted on conspiracy charges, due mostly to the testimony of more than two dozen informants, all of whom claimed to have sold crack to the family. The informants began coming forward after a federal prosecutor inadvertently left his file on the case at a federal prison while interviewing a witness. All requested time off from their own sentences in exchange for their testimony.

The federal prosecutors should have known that there was simply no way the informants’ testimony could have been true. First was the matter that all of them came forward with specific information about the family only after the prosecutor’s file had been shared throughout the federal prison. Second, if you added up the amount of crack the witnesses claimed to have sold to the family, the Colombs would have been purchasing about $500,000 in crack each month, enough to make them regional kingpins. Yet the Colombs lived in a modest, working-class home and showed no signs of that sort of wealth. Third, the federal government couldn’t produce a single witness who claimed to have bought drugs from the family, only the 30 or so who claimed to have sold it to them.

Yet when challenged on all of this, the federal prosecutor said in open court that it didn’t matter if he personally believed in the accuracy of the evidence he was presenting and all that mattered was that the jury believed it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 11:23 am

Uh-oh: Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32

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This may have quite an impact on Roy Moore’s campaign, though it should be noted that when Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, his supporters shrugged it off. But I think the mood today is different, and in particular the pedophilic aspects of the Roy Moore encounter may be problematic given how strenuously he emphasizes what a religious person he is.

Stephanie McCrummen, Beth Reinhard and Alice Crites report in the Washington Post:

Leigh Corfman says she was 14 years old when an older man approached her outside a courtroom in Etowah County, Ala. She was sitting on a wooden bench with her mother, they both recall, when the man introduced himself as Roy Moore.

It was early 1979 and Moore — now the Republican nominee in Alabama for a U.S. Senate seat — was a 32-year-old assistant district attorney. He struck up a conversation, Corfman and her mother say, and offered to watch the girl while her mother went inside for a child custody hearing.

“He said, ‘Oh, you don’t want her to go in there and hear all that. I’ll stay out here with her,’ ” says Corfman’s mother, Nancy Wells, 71. “I thought, how nice for him to want to take care of my little girl.”

Alone with Corfman, Moore chatted with her and asked for her phone number, she says. Days later, she says, he picked her up around the corner from her house in Gadsden, drove her about 30 minutes to his home in the woods, told her how pretty she was and kissed her. On a second visit, she says, he took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes. He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.

“I wanted it over with — I wanted out,” she remembers thinking. “Please just get this over with. Whatever this is, just get it over.” Corfman says she asked Moore to take her home, and he did.

Two of Corfman’s childhood friends say she told them at the time that she was seeing an older man, and one says Corfman identified the man as Moore. Wells says her daughter told her about the encounter more than a decade later, as Moore was becoming more prominent as a local judge.

Aside from Corfman, three other women interviewed by The Washington Post in recent weeks say Moore pursued them when they were between the ages of 16 and 18 and he was in his early 30s, episodes they say they found flattering at the time, but troubling as they got older. None of the women say that Moore forced them into any sort of relationship or sexual contact.

Wendy Miller says she was 14 and working as a Santa’s helper at the Gadsden Mall when Moore first approached her, and 16 when he asked her on dates, which her mother forbade. Debbie Wesson Gibson says she was 17 when Moore spoke to her high school civics class and asked her out on the first of several dates that did not progress beyond kissing. Gloria Thacker Deason says she was an 18-year-old cheerleader when Moore began taking her on dates that included bottles of Mateus Rosé wine. The legal drinking age in Alabama was 19.

Of the four women, the youngest at the time was Corfman, who is the only one who says she had sexual contact with Moore that went beyond kissing. She says they did not have intercourse.

In a written statement, Moore denied the allegations. . .

Continue reading.

From the BBC report:

Alabama’s state auditor Jim Zeigler came under fire on Thursday for his remarks defending Mr Moore.

He was quoted as saying that even if the Washington Post report were true, “it’s much ado about very little”.

Mr Zeigler told the Washington Times newspaper: “Also take Joseph and Mary. Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”

Written by LeisureGuy

9 November 2017 at 10:51 am

Posted in Election, GOP

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