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Archive for December 26th, 2017

Inspector general says mishandling of sexual harassment complaints at Justice Department is a ‘systemic’ problem

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Perhaps Jeff Sessions could take some action. In the Washington Post Sari Horwitz reports on the breakdown of integrity in the Department of Justice:

The Justice Department has “systemic” problems in how it handles sexual harassment complaints, with those found to have acted improperly often not receiving appropriate punishment, and the issue requires “high level action,” according to the department’s inspector general.

Justice supervisors have mishandled complaints, the IG said, and some perpetrators were given little discipline or even later rewarded with bonuses or performance awards. At the same time, the number of allegations of sexual misconduct has been increasing over the past five years and the complaints have involved senior Justice Department officials across the country.

The cases examined by the IG’s office include a U.S. attorney who had a sexual relationship with a subordinate and sent harassing texts and emails when it ended; a Civil Division lawyer who groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys; and a chief deputy U.S. marshal who had sex with “approximately” nine women on multiple occasions in his U.S. Marshals Service office, according to investigative reports obtained by The Washington Post under a Freedom of Information Act request.

“We’re talking about presidential appointees, political appointees, FBI special agents in charge, U.S. attorneys, wardens, a chief deputy U.S. marshal, a U.S. marshal assistant director, a deputy assistant attorney general,” Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said in an interview.

On May 31 — before the issue exploded into the national consciousness— Horowitz sent a memo about sexual harassment to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

“When employees engage in such misconduct, it profoundly affects the victim and affects the agency’s reputation, undermines the agency’s credibility, and lowers employee productivity and morale,” Horowitz wrote. “Without strong action from the Department to ensure that DOJ employees meet the highest standards of conduct and accountability, the systemic issues we identified in our work may continue.”

Rosenstein said he would review the IG’s memo and consider whether additional guidance to Justice employees was required to ensure all misconduct allegations are handled appropriately.

“It is fortunate that there are relatively few substantiated incidents of sexual harassment, but even one incident is too many,” Rosenstein said in a statement at the time.

When contacted by The Post, Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said Rosenstein has convened a working group to consider the issues raised by Horowitz and will soon respond to the IG with recommendations.

In August, a group of 17 Justice Department employees also wrote Rosenstein, saying that some of them had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at the department. In the letter, the DOJ Gender Equality Network, which has hundreds of members throughout the department, said it wanted to help Rosenstein’s office formulate steps to achieve a “zero tolerance” environment.

“We are aware of the letter and are taking steps to receive their input,” Prior said.

While Horowitz’s office investigates the allegations, it is the department that decides on any discipline. In several cases, Horowitz said Justice Department attorneys who were accused of sexual misconduct were not disciplined appropriately and in some cases were later given awards or bonuses.

“We were troubled to learn that subjects of pending sexual misconduct investigations or individuals who had been recently disciplined for sexual misconduct still received performance awards,” Horowitz said.

Some of the most troubling allegations, Horowitz said, have been in the Justice Department’s Civil Division. His office examined the handling of those allegations, which occurred several years ago, after receiving a complaint that the Office of Immigration Litigation had not properly disciplined an attorney who had committed sexual misconduct.

In his report, the IG wrote that a senior, supervisory attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation, Victor Lawrence, groped the breasts and buttocks of two female trial attorneys and made sexually charged comments to them at an office happy hour. Lawrence, whose name was redacted from the report but who was identified by people familiar with the incidents, had previously received a reprimand and diminution of title for sending emails of a sexual nature to co-workers.

After the second incident with the two women, Lawrence began a scheduled detail to another division “apparently with no notice to the component of the misconduct allegations,” the inspector general wrote. After the groping allegations were investigated, Lawrence received a written reprimand for inappropriate touching, a further change in title and relief from supervisory duties.

The IG noted that Lawrence received no suspension or loss in pay or grade. The deciding official in the Civil Division said a suspension “would unnecessarily deprive the government of [his] litigating services,” according to the report.

“I was terrified I was going to get in the elevator and he would be in there,” said a woman who was involved in one of the groping incidents.” The Post does not identify victims of sexual misconduct without their agreement.

Horowitz’s report also concluded that this case “presented potential criminal assault violations, yet we found no evidence in the case file that a referral was made to the [Inspector General] or any other law enforcement entity.”

Another senior attorney in the Office of Immigration Litigation admitted stalking a female attorney by hacking into her personal email account and conducting “a catfishing operation,” by creating a “fictitious online profile to entice her,” the inspector general found.

The attorney, Theodore Atkinson, who received a written reprimand and reduction in title, was restricted for one year from entering the building in which the attorney he had stalked worked and was moved to a different section in the Civil Division. But he received no suspension or loss in pay or grade.

The IG said this case also “raises potential criminal concerns, yet we found no evidence that a referral was made to [the Inspector General] or any other law enforcement entity,” the report said. Atkinson’s name was redacted from the report, but he was also identified by people familiar with the matter.

Atkinson was recently given a “Special Commendation Award from the Civil Division.”

Neither Atkinson or Lawrence responded to requests for comment.

A third attorney, even after being counseled about inappropriate behavior toward female co-workers and interns, allegedly “peered” through high windows into the offices of two different women who had closed their doors while they were pumping breast milk, according to an IG report. The attorney caught peeping told his supervisor that it was “an honest mistake,” an explanation the supervisor accepted, the IG report said. The matter was not fully investigated, the inspector general found, and the attorney was verbally counseled. He is still working in the Office of Immigration Litigation. His alleged behavior became such an issue that some women at the Justice Department have taped wrapping paper over the windows outside their offices.

All three Civil Division attorneys received performance awards after their misconduct, the report said.

“I’m shocked and really disappointed,” said a female attorney with knowledge of the incidents who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to a reporter. “They got free passes. They got awards. They got to continue with their careers. It sounds like nothing is going to be done.”

Justice spokesman Prior said  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2017 at 7:50 pm

Ben Franklin’s Guide to Spotting Pseudoscience

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Faye Flan writes for Bloomberg:

Scientists — especially those in fields plagued by irreproducible results — could learn a thing or two from Benjamin Franklin. In the late 18th century, humanity had yet to invent most of the statistical tools now considered essential for social science, yet Franklin conducted a top-rate psychology experiment yielding conclusions that stand to this day.

To do it, he had to invent some of the core principles of experimental science. Franklin’s contribution to social science often gets drowned out by his equally great strides in electricity and other forms of innovation. But now, with critics charging that most published social science can’t be replicated, Franklin’s foray into psychology deserves some attention.

The year was 1782. The place: Paris. King Louis XVI asked Franklin to investigate an allegedly science-based form of medicine known as Mesmerism. Named for its inventor — Viennese physician Franz Mesmer — treatments involved moving an alleged magnetic fluid through the body by means of waving hands or rods over a patient, or having them touch a “magnetized” object.

It was wildly popular and a little too good to be true — much like a lot of the claims behind today’s supplements, homeopathic remedies and self-help books. Mesmer, whose name lives on in the word “mesmerize,” had become fascinated with magnetism and wanted to harness its power to heal the sick. His treatments played out like performances, according to Stanford historian Jessica Riskin. There was music and elaborate rituals, after which some patients went into convulsions or fainted. Then, they reported they were cured of their ills, aches and pains.

There was, in other words, abundant evidence that mesmerism had an effect on people. Skeptics thought there was something fishy, but it wasn’t obvious what it was. That’s why the king commissioned an investigation. It was headed by Franklin, as well as the famed French chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. Their approach has been chronicled in history books as well as a chapter in “Classic Experiments in Psychology” by Douglas G. Mook.

After Franklin visited one of the salons where people were lining up for treatments, he realized that there was too much going on, and this was not the right setting for research.

So he brought trained mesmerists and volunteer patients to his home.

Franklin reasoned that if Mesmer’s magnetic interpretation was correct, the effects should be the same whether or not patients were blindfolded. The experiment that followed was a precursor to today’s double-blind controlled trials. What the investigators controlled were two specific variables –- whether patients were told they were getting the treatment or not, and whether they really were treated.

The investigators found that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2017 at 11:51 am

Posted in Medical, Science

Back for family Christmas

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A very nice afternoon and evening spent with family up-island, with superb food. Back home now and staying home to avoid Boxing Day sales crowds.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018.

Written by Leisureguy

26 December 2017 at 11:47 am

Posted in Daily life

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