Later On

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

Archive for September 16th, 2022

At eBay, Lurid Crimes and the Search for Punishment

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Corporate executives, quick to claim credit for good performance by the company, should also be held accountable for corporate criminal activity. Not to put too fine a point on it, corporate executives are not sent to prison so often as they should. Instead, the company writes a check “with no admission of wrongdoing,” and the executives are off the hook. More frequent prison sentences would make corporations and their executives much more appreciative of the costs of misbehavior.

David Streitfeld reports how eBay is vigorously attempting to shield its executives from what seems a clear-cut instance of initiating and directing criminal behavior. His article (gift link, no paywall) begins:

“If you are ever going to take her down .. now is the time.”

Devin Wenig, the chief executive of the e-commerce company eBay, texted those words to a deputy one summer afternoon three years ago. He was upset about a story he had just read.

Within days, the writer who was the subject of Mr. Wenig’s wrath and her husband were inundated with offensive material, including live cockroaches and spiders, a funeral wreath, a Halloween mask of a bloody pig face and a manual on surviving the death of a spouse. Crude and violent Twitter messages were posted mocking them and revealing their address. Posts on Craigslist falsely advertised they were selling their furniture or, alternatively, interested in sexual partners for bondage and sadism. They were physically stalked.

All of the intimidation and harassment directed at Ina and David Steiner was anonymous and completely confounding. They ran a niche publication about eBay and e-commerce from their suburban Boston house. It was a quiet life, with Ina writing the articles and David handling the business affairs. They had no idea why people should suddenly be so furious with them.

The attacks were still escalating when police traced them back to eBay. In the wake of those weeks in the summer of 2019, everyone — including prosecutors, judges, the victims, the perpetrators and eBay itself — has come to agree that a really bad thing happened at the Silicon Valley icon. The lurid episode is a vivid demonstration of how easily paranoia can bloom in an institutional setting, even at a Fortune 500 company with 13,000 employees and $10 billion in revenue.

This is the part no one agrees about: who was responsible and how they should be punished.

If you’re a low-level employee and believe what the company tells you about extreme actions being necessary to neutralize a threat, is that an excuse? If you’re the big boss and say “take her down” are you off the hook because you didn’t get into details? If your previous career involved doing “arguably unlawful” things, should your managers be able to plead innocence when you then go out and do unlawful things? How do you punish a corporation, anyway?

These questions will be considered this fall in three Boston courtrooms. In two of them, members of the eBay security team are being sentenced for stalking, witness tampering and other crimes. A total of seven former employees have pleaded guilty. The first perpetrator to appear before the judge said he was too drunk during his brief stint at eBay to understand what was going on. It worked: He got a lighter sentence.

In the final courtroom, something more complicated and far-reaching is happening. The Steiners are suing eBay, Mr. Wenig, who is no longer chief executive, and many others, saying the campaign against them was not the activity of a rogue team but something closer to official company policy.

EBay at that time was on the defensive, under pressure from a hedge fund to perform or else. Public criticism was not something the chief executive wanted to hear. It might cost him his job. He decided to stop it.

The Steiners are unlikely free speech champions. They started their publication, EcommerceBytes, during the dot-com boom more than 20 years ago. It is both a news site for online sellers and, in the comments, a forum for the merchants to express their sometimes cranky opinions — usually about eBay but Amazon and Etsy too. The blog, with articles like “Ebay CEO Devin Wenig Earns 152 Times That of Employees” and “Ebay Says New Shipping Screen Is Here to Stay,” was widely read at the company’s San Jose, Calif., headquarters.

The Steiners are represented in their suit by Rosemary Scapicchio, a criminal defense attorney well known in Boston legal circles for her success with seemingly impossible cases. Her 17-year effort on behalf of Sean Ellis, a Black man convicted of murdering a white cop, resulted in his freedom and exposed a web of police corruption. The case is the subject of a 2020 Netflix documentary series, “Trial 4.” The Steiners watched it and sought out Ms. Scapicchio. . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 6:03 pm

Air Canada just ordered 30 electric planes that can carry passengers up to 500 miles as the race for airlines to cut emissions intensifies

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Taylor Rains reports in Business Insider:

Air Canada is one step closer to becoming a greener company.

The Montréal-based airline announced Thursday that it had ordered 30 of Heart Aerospace’s ES-30 electric aircraft. Air Canada has also gained a $5 million equity stake in the Swedish manufacturer. 

Scheduled to enter service in 2028, the plane is set to seat 30 passengers in a two-by-one configuration and fly up to 124 miles, or 200 kilometers, when in all-electric mode. 

The range can extend to 249 miles when the battery is supplemented by generators and 497 miles when the capacity is limited to 25 people, according to Air Canada.

“Air Canada has taken a leadership position in the industry to address climate change,” Michael Rousseau, the company’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “The introduction into our fleet of the ES-30 electric regional aircraft from Heart Aerospace will be a step forward to our goal of net zero emissions by 2050.”

The move complements Air Canada’s  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 4:47 pm

Summer joy: Cooking fresh vegetables

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Just cooking some dinner. Starting at upper left and going roughly clockwise, we have:

• Russian red garlic — I used two of the (enormous) cloves
• ginger root — I used all of the piece shown
• turmeric root — just below the ginger and mostly hidden — chopped fine
• red habanero pepper — just to the right of the ginger; I seeded this and chopped it
• 2 red cayenne peppers — above the habanero; I chopped these without seeding
• 3 garlic scapes — mostly hidden; cut into short sections
• 2 long sweet peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow — seeded and chopped
• 1 zucchini — quartered lengthwise and cut into good-sized pieces
• a few kale leaves — chopped
• diced red kidney bean and millet tempeh, marinated in Smoky-Maple overnight
• 1 leek, chopped including leaves
• a few scallions, ditto
• several cremini mushrooms, sliced
• a few spears asparagus, chopped
• 1 San Marzano tomato, chopped

That’s my Bulat knife in the photo. Not shown but added:

• a couple of pinches of MSG
• a good amount of ground black pepper
• roughly 2 tablespoons dried marjoram
• roughly 1.5 tablespoons dried mint
• good shaking of salt substitute (potassium chloride, iodized)
• good dash of tamari — a tablespoon or two
• about 1/4 cup Bragg’s apple-cider vinegar

I added all of the above to my 12″ MSMK nonstick skillet which was sprayed with about 1.5 teaspoons olive oil, covered the skillet, turned the induction burner to “3,” and cooked it for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

And here it is after cooking.

It tastes good, and the presence of the habanero is definitely noted. It was a good decision to use only one. (I bought three.)

The Smoky Maple Marinade is a hit, and the tempeh tastes great. I think I probably should have used the entire 8 ounces I made. I’ll add the rest now and cook the dish a bit longer. 

Overall, a good meal. Other elements of the Daily Dozen I got earlier — for example, the chia pudding included spices (cinnamon and cloves), walnuts, flaxseed, and berries (frozen berries plus dried barberries plus 1 teaspoon amla). And I had a 1.71-mile walk (3.32 mph, so 31 minutes).

Update: I added the rest of the tempeh, including the marinade, and cooked for six minutes. I just had a bowl of that — also delicious. Also, the aftereffect of the habanero (and cayenne, I imagine) is a sustained warmth in the mouth — not heat, not painful, but warm and pleasant.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 4:31 pm

The good side of genetic engineering: Scientists hail autoimmune disease therapy breakthrough

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Genetic engineering certainly has a dark side (“Roundup-ready” by Monsanto), but it also has beneficial possibilities, such as Golden Rice and the therapy reported in the Guardian by Ian Sample:

Five people with severe autoimmune disease have become the first in the world to receive a groundbreaking therapy that uses genetically altered cells to drive the illness into remission.

The four women and one man, aged 18 to 24, received transfusions of modified immune cells to treat severe lupus, an autoimmune disease that can cause life-threatening damage to the heart, lungs, brain and kidneys.

The treatment drove the disease into remission in all five patients, who have now been off lupus medication for between three and 17 months. Doctors say the apparent success raises hopes for tackling other autoimmune conditions such a rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, develops when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues and organs. The causes are not well understood, but researchers believe it may be triggered by viral infections, particular medicines, and changes in the body around puberty and the menopause.

The condition affects about one in 1,000 people, and far more women than men. It is hard to diagnose because the symptoms often flare up and settle down, and overlap with those of several other diseases. While mild in many people, lupus can cause extreme tiredness, organ damage and pain in the joints and muscles. One of the most common signs is a distinctive skin rash over the nose and cheeks.

Doctors in Germany treated five severely ill patients with CAR T-cell therapy after other treatments failed to improve their symptoms. The approach has proved successful at combating certain cancers since it was first used in a leukaemia patient in 2015. CAR T-cell therapy involves collecting the patient’s T-cells – a key component of the immune system – and modifying them so that they attack new targets, such as cancer cells, when infused back into the body.

In the latest work, doctors took T-cells from the lupus patients and modified them so that, on re-infusion, they attacked the patients’ B cells. In lupus, B cells churn out autoantibodies, which instead of defending the body against invading pathogens, attack healthy tissues instead.

According to the study in Nature Medicine, the therapy in effect wiped out the patients’ aberrant B cells and dramatically improved their condition. The disease affected multiple organs in all five patients, but after the therapy severe symptoms including arthritis, fatigue, fibrosis of the heart valves, and lung inflammation all cleared up.

Blood tests on the patients showed that their B cells recovered about four months after the treatment, but they no longer produced aberrant antibodies and the patients remained disease-free. Writing in the journal, the authors speculate that the therapy led to a . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 2:13 pm

A teen ordered to pay $150,000 to the family of her rapist is flooded with donations

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The US is a strange place. Vanessa Romo reports for NPR:

A fundraiser for an Iowa teen who was a victim of human trafficking and convicted of killing her rapist, has easily surpassed the $150,000 restitution fee she was ordered to pay his family.

As of Friday morning, a GoFundMe account set up on behalf of Pieper Lewis has collected nearly $450,000 from people who say they’re disgusted by the court-enforced restitution order.

The 17-year-old pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and willful injury for killing Zachary Brooks in 2020. According to Lewis, Brooks, who was 37 at the time, repeatedly raped the then-15-year-old in the weeks before his death. She told the court that eventually, something in her snapped and, in a fit of rage, she stabbed Brooks at least 30 times.

During a sentencing hearing Tuesday, Polk County District judge David M. Porter deferred two 10-year prison terms, ruling that Lewis’s time in juvenile detention was enough time served, and ordered her to five years probation.

Porter addressed the unfairness of forcing Lewis to provide monetary compensation to her own abuser’s family, saying he had “no other option.” The restitution is mandatory under Iowa law, and the state is not among those that have established so-called safe harbor laws, which provide varying levels of criminal immunity for trafficking victims.

The GoFundMe page was launched by Leland Schipper, a former math teacher of Lewis, who described feeling “incredibly proud of her.”

“[T]he judge recognized that Pieper was a victim and a child. He, like almost everyone who knows the details of Pieper’s case, empathized with a girl with no violent history before or after this incident, who saw killing a man as the only way out of a truly horrific situation,” Schipper wrote in a message to would-be donors.

His words and those of Lewis, have moved tens  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 2:08 pm

Less and less = better and better (at least, for Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-Shave)

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I observed in an earlier post that when I used less of Grooming Dept Moisturizing Pre-shave — a deci-smidgen instead of a full smidgen — the resulting shave was even better. I had cut back the amount because, with a shave stick, the soap is mixed directly with the pre-shave before lathering begins (because the shave stick is rubbed against the grain to scrape off the soap that will later load the brush).

This morning I decided to try even less: about 3 centi-smidgens, just enough that it was visible on my finger. I spread it easily across my wet stubble, rubbing it in well, then wet my fingers and rubbed the stubble again.

The I took Mama Bear’s Hydrogen shave stick, and rubbed soap onto my face, with stubble as the scraper. (The soap is also available as a puck.) “Hydrogen” is a jest of sorts, since the element hydrogen does not, to a human nose, have a fragrance, but the shaving soap has a fine fragrance:

Top fruity notes of apple, grapefruit, peach and leafy greens; with middle notes of lily, lavender, rose and violet; and finally base notes with amber, sandalwood, and raspberry musk.

I then took my Wet Shaving Products Monarch, a fine brush indeed, wet it well, shook it until it was merely damp, and brushed my face briskly. A small bit of lather emerged as I brushed all the stubble. I added a driblet of water to the knot and brushed over the stubble again, and the lather rose and formed and filled the knot. One more driblet of water and a little more brushing, and I had as good a lather as one could want.

I did enjoy the step-wise development of a rich and satisfying lather. It provided a feeling of accomplishment disproportionately large compared to the effort involved, and it set me up for a great shave.

My Henson AL13 did a masterful job. My face is as smooth as after a Monday shave and — thanks, I think, to the Moisturizing Pre-Shave, very soft and supple as well.

A splash of Czech Diplomat aftershave, with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, and the job is done and the day begins.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s Earl Grey Cream, the last of the tin I have. “a blend of fine Ceylon, Darjeeling, and Keemun teas, lightly scented with real oil of bergamot and sweet vanilla.” Though it is good, I think I’ll refill that tin with Royal Grey.

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 10:05 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

Catholic hospital in New Hampshire offers its defense for keeping deadly (but profitable) heart surgeon on staff: “We had no idea”

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Two earlier posts (first one and second one) told the story of the lethal surgeon. The hospital now offers its (weak) defense. Deirdre Fernandes and Jonathan Saltzman report in the Boston Globe (no paywall):

Leaders of Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, N.H., told employees on Wednesday that they will launch a full review of how the hospital oversees medical care after a Boston Globe Spotlight Team series revealed that a former surgeon there racked up one of the worst surgical malpractice records in the country and that administrators did little to address repeated warnings by employees.

Hospital executives face mounting criticism for concealing problems involving Dr. Yvon Baribeau, a celebrated cardiothoracic surgeon who retired in 2019 after years of complaints and legal claims. The Globe series disclosed that Baribeau settled 21 malpractice claims tied to his work at CMC, including 14 in which he was alleged to have contributed to a patient’s death. His earliest settlement occurred in 1998, but most came soon after his retirement and had provisions requiring the deals be kept secret.

In the wake of the stories, the chairman of a New Hampshire state legislative committee, Representative Mark Pearson, accused CMC of a “coverup” and vowed to launch an investigation into the failures to stop Baribeau earlier, including the role of state regulators.

“This is a challenging time for us and a challenging time for all of you,” said CMC’s chief executive Alex Walker, addressing an online “town hall” for employees Wednesday morning, according to those who attended. “No question it undermines people’s confidence and trust in the organization.”

Walker denied the hospital withheld important information about Baribeau’s work history from the public, and rejected accusations of a coverup. Walker, fielding several skeptical questions from staffers in the first of two meetings with employees on Wednesday, acknowledged that the hospital had suffered a hit to its reputation.

In an e-mail to employees later, Walker said the hospital plans . . .

Continue reading. (no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

16 September 2022 at 3:10 am

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