Later On

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

US prisons very unlike Norwegian prisons

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In the US, for example, many prisons are run by companies that seek to make a profit from incarcerating prisoners, which of course means cutting costs. These companies generally have little or no regard for the prisoners in their keeping—including one that took away prisoner’s wheelchair in revenge for the prisoner reporting misconduct. Alice Ollstein reports at ThinkProgress:

The for-profit prison health care company Corizon continues to fight accusations from around the country that they have abused or neglected the inmates in their care.

In a new case in Fresno County, California, an inmate with a degenerative spinal disease says a Corizon doctor took his wheelchair away in retaliation for his previous complaints about her. When detectives with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office investigated the complaint, they found the company had also appeared to have falsified and altered the inmate’s medical records to cover up the abuse, as documented in a search warrant revealed by the local ABC channel.

These allegations come just four months after Corizon took over operations at the jail, a $100 million contract they won based largely on a promise to save Fresno County $5 million.

Nearby California counties have found that lawsuits against the company for the death of inmates can make an originally cheap contract quite expensive. The company paid the largest wrongful death settlement in state history in February to Alameda County, and promised to end its cost-cutting tactic of using less-trained vocational nurses instead of registered nurses.

Corizon also paid a settlement last week — the amount is secret — to the family of an inmate in Minnesota who died in their care. Jerrell Hammond, 34, begged Corizon doctors to be taken to an emergency room in the hours leading up to his death from blood clots. The case follows several other wrongful death and neglect lawsuits against the company from other inmates and their families that have been filed in recent years, including a case in which Corizon staff put a notereading “faker” in a suffering inmate’s medical file, then later destroyed the note when he became partially paralyzed due to lack of treatment.

And in Pennsylvania, the American Civil Liberties Union is investigating multiple claims that Corizon staff have been denying HIV medication to inmates. Corizon responded that the allegations are “untrue” but refused to comment further. Local advocates warn the situation is causing a public health crisis both in the jail and the greater community as untreated offenders are released.

Early this year in the same county, an inmate died after not receiving his epilepsy medication.

Corizon is currently gunning for a $66 million contract to take over operations at DC’s two local jails, paying for ads on Twitter and Google, hiring local insidersto lobby on their behalf, and enlisting the powerful PR firm Edelman.

Referencing the many lawsuits against the company, which can be massively costly for any county or city that works with Corizon, the Chair of the DC Counciljust announced his opposition to awarding Corizon the contract.

The US not only imprisons a higher proportion of its citizens than other nations (and the difference in incarceration rate is substantial), it also treats its prisons inhumanely as a matter of routine—as in Florida and New York, where prison guards routinely beat prisoners to death or close to death.

This conduct is particularly shameful when, as we see, the people imprisoned are often innocent, railroaded by unethical prosecutors and inadequate public defenders.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 6:43 pm

Venetian cauliflower is quite tasty

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I just made this recipe. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly easy, but it’s not very hard—but you do need a well-stocked spice shelf. I suggest measuring everything out before you begin. You’ll need a large pot (6-8 qts) or when you add the cauliflower to the boiling water the temperature will drop drastically.

Drain in a colander, not a sieve. I don’t know that I’ll make it again, but I probably will: I now have currants and golden raisins on hand. And it is tasty.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 5:06 pm

Posted in Food, Recipes

Nuts Are a Nutritional Powerhouse

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Jane Brody reports in the NY Times:

. . . A series of large studies, including the Nurses’ Health Study of 76,464 women and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 42,498 men, found that the more nuts people consumed, the less likely they were to die at any given age, especially of cancer or heart disease. And aclinical trial conducted in Spain showed that death rates were lower among those consuming a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra nuts.

However, these studies were conducted almost entirely among relatively well-to-do, well educated, white individuals, and despite the researchers’ care in controlling for other factors that could have influenced the results, there remained the possibility that characteristics of the participants other than nut consumption could account for their reduced death rates.

Now, strong links between nuts and peanuts and better health have also been found in a major study of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and varied ethnic groups — blacks, whites and Asians — many of whom had serious risk factors for premature death, like smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

The results were published in March in JAMA Internal Medicine by researchers at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Their study, conducted among more than 200,000 men and women in the Southern United States and Shanghai, found that the more nuts people consumed, the lower their death rates from all causes and especially from heart disease and stroke.

And while it is true that more people today are allergic to nuts, and to peanuts in particular, than ever before, two recent studies have pointed to ways that may prevent children from developing a nut allergy. The first study, published last year in JAMA Pediatrics, found that women who consumed the most nuts or peanuts during their pregnancies were least likely to have children with this allergy. The reduction in risk was highest among children whose mothers ate nuts five or more times a month.

The second study, published in February in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that introducing peanuts into the diets of infants 4 to 11 months old who were considered at high risk of developing a peanut allergy actually greatly reduced their risk of being allergic at age 5. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Food, Health, Science

Obama administration provides support to Egyptian dictator, regardless of human rights record

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Obama has promised to give Egypt more military aid. Glenn Greenwald reports in The Intercept:

Yesterday, the Egyptian regime announced it was prosecuting witnesses who say they saw a police officer murder an unarmed poet and activist during a demonstration, the latest in a long line of brutal human rights abuses that includes imprisoning journalists, prosecuting LGBT citizens, and mass executions of protesters. Last June, Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian “security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.”

Today, the White House announced that during a telephone call with Egyptian despot Abdelfattah al-Sisi, President Obama personally lifted the freeze on transferring weapons to the regime, and also affirmed that the $1.3 billion in military aid will continue unimpeded. Announced the White House:

President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Abdelfattah al-Sisi today regarding the U.S.-Egyptian military assistance relationship and regional developments, including in Libya and Yemen. President Obama informed President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits.  The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt.

But for those who think the U.S. should not lavish vicious tyrants with arms and money, don’t worry! During the call, “President Obama also reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials,” and “encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States.” To read that is to feel the sincerity and potency of those presidential words.

The move comes as the U.S. is also heavily supporting the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen, also involving some of the region’s worst tyrants (also known as: the U.S.’s closest allies). So the U.S. is, as usual, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the region’s most oppressive regimes, whose survival at least partially depends on the abundant U.S. largesse they receive, once again provoking that age-old mystery: Why do they hate us? 

Obama’s move is as unsurprising as it is noxious, as American political elites – from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright – along with the Israeli Right have been heaping praise on Sisi the way they did for decades on Mubarak (“I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family,” said Hillary Clinton in 2009. “So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States”). . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 2:28 pm

Facebook Tracks You Even If You Opt Out

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Nicole Kobie reports for Motherboard:

If you’ve visited a Facebook page—even if you don’t have an account, and even if you’ve opted out of tracking—the social network drops a long-lasting cookie onto your computer, and follows you everywhere you go.

That’s according to an in-depth ​report from a pair of Belgian universities, who were commissioned to investigate the issue by​ their local data protection agency. (Asked for a response, the UK’s own Information Commissioner Office directed us to Ireland’s data protection watchdogs, saying it wasn’t their remit as Facebook is based in Ireland.)

The report found that Facebook tracks users even if they’re logged out, have deactivated their account, or have opted out of behavioural advertising. The problem centres on Facebook’s social plugins, those widgets that people install on their sites with the Like button.

The researchers suggested that Facebook sets a tracking cookie that can last for two years on your PC or device in three​ instances. First, when you visit a Facebook page—whether it’s your own profile or a company page when you’re not signed in; second, if you visit specific third-party websites (including mtv.com and, rather oddly, myspace.com); and third, rather ironically, if you go to the European D​igital Advertising Alliance website to opt out of tracking.

From then on, every time you visit a page with a Like button or other social plugin, it sees the cookie and sends the tracking details back to Facebook. That happens even if you don’t click Like, login to Facebook, or interact in any other way with the site.

If all this sounds exactly what you’d expect from Facebook, you’re not alone. Paul Bernal, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia’s law school, wasn’t surprised by the report, though he said the extent of the tracking goes further than he would have thought. “Facebook has a record of pushing the boundaries, and for finding new ways to invade privacy, which is one reason that people like me, who understand at least part of how they work, are not generally on Facebook,” he told me. “So it’s not a surprise that they’re doing whatever they can to track us, but this looks a bit more brazen than I suspected. They’ve had their fingers burnt in this field before, and I thought they might be a bit more circumspect.”

Facebook said the report contained “factual inaccuracies” but did not detail them; the authors didn’t speak to the social network “to clarify any assumptions” before it was published. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 12:33 pm

A new way to reform the criminal justice system

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Douglas Starr reports in the New Yorker:

Last year, the district attorney’s office in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, blew a case. The chairman of the county’s Republican Party, Robert J. Kerns, had been accused of rape by a woman who worked at his law firm. The woman said that Kerns had offered her a ride after an alcohol-fuelled office party. Along the way, she said, he gave her wine and raped her in his Mercedes, and then again in her home. Hospital reports showed bruising consistent with a sexual assault, and DNA on the woman’s underwear was consistent with Kerns’s profile. A key piece of evidence was a urine test apparently showing the presence of Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien. Prosecutors secured a grand-jury indictment on more than a dozen criminal counts, including rape and aggravated indecent assault. Afterward, they held a press conference.

Several months later, a toxicologist hired by Kerns’s defense took a closer look at the lab report. Although the word “Zolpidem” appeared, what the document indicated was that the test had detected “less than” five nanograms per milliliter, which in this case was zero. Kerns’s lawyer got in touch with the prosecuting attorneys, who were horrified to realize that they had misinterpreted the findings—a rookie mistake.

“It was a huge embarrassment,” Risa Ferman, Montgomery County’s district attorney, told me. She and her staff had plenty of evidence that Kerns had committed a sexual assault, but, because the drugging was written into the indictment, they had to drop charges and refer the case to the Commonwealth’s Attorney General’s office. A newspaper called the incident a “fiasco.”

Normally after such a mistake, the D.A. would fire the responsible parties and announce that she had cleaned house. Instead, Ferman did things differently: rather than find a culprit to blame, she held a series of meetings to discover the organizational errors that had led to the mistake. “These were skilled professionals,” she told me, who had not set out to sabotage their case. What factors, she wondered, had caused competent people to make bad choices?

In asking this question, Ferman was following a procedure alien to the justice system but entrenched in the health-care and transportation industries. A few decades ago, administering anesthesia was one of the most dangerous medical procedures, and had a mortality rate of about one in ten thousand. By analyzing the circumstances of those deaths through an independent review process, experts learned that a few simple equipment changes could save lives: making the nozzles and hoses of oxygen and nitrogen incompatible, for instance, so that patients could not be given the wrong gas. Today, the death rate involving anesthesia hovers at around one in a hundred and eighty thousand.

Nowadays, flying a commercial airplane is one of the safest things that you can do, notwithstanding high-profile tragedies such as the crash of a Germanwings flight last week. That’s because, after each accident, the National Transportation Safety Board conducts a thorough and objective review, protecting involved parties from prosecution and liability, and focussing solely on improving safety. (Even though the N.T.S.B.’s findings are made public, the information is not admissible as evidence in court.) Many improvements, from the strip lighting along the aisle to the way in which cockpit staff communicate with each other, resulted from this review process, often referred to as “sentinel event analysis.”

A series of experiments over the past year has aimed to build similar safeguards into the justice system. A veteran Boston defense attorney, James Doyle, observed the proliferation of exoneration cases in the post-DNA era and has worked on a number of reform efforts. “No one gets into this job to convict innocent people,” he told me. “The real problem is developing the capability for dealing with inevitable mistakes.” He wondered if “sentinel event analysis”— reviewing legal errors in a blame-free environment—could tease out the sequence of factors that might have contributed to a mistake and, perhaps, lead to a more accident-proof legal system.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, Doyle travelled the country interviewing police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and victims’-rights groups, among others, culminating in a kind of summit meeting in Washington, D.C. Based on his work, the Institute organized an experiment in which three jurisdictions—Milwaukee, Baltimore, and a third, in Philadelphia—volunteered to do a systems analysis of a high-profile failure. The Montgomery County experiment, conducted in parallel with the N.I.J. study, was a fourth.

In every case, the horrendous legal accident turned out to have multiple causes embedded in the legal system. There was no single bad actor. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 12:23 pm

Important for those who are not dysgraphic: Ditch the Keyboard, Take Notes By Hand

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post on a recent study of note-taking methods (by hand vs. on computer) and learning. The students who took notes by hand did significantly better. Read the post for details. Note that some suffer from dysgraphia—the writing equivalent of dyslexia—and trying to write by hand doesn’t work at all well. Those may wish to use something like the Livescribe pen: it records audio and allows you to make notes in a notebook. Later, you can place the pen on a note and hear the recording of what was being said at that point.

One well-known template for taking notes in lecture classes (which wouldn’t help much in the St. John’s College discussion-based classes, but almost all colleges depend on the lecture as the teaching format) is the Cornell note-taking system:

blog_cornell_notes

From the “Useful Posts” page:

The Cornell note-taking system — excellent way to take lecture notes
Notalon — a program for Cornell note-taking (Mac, Windows, Linux)

It’s not clear that Notalon would deliver the benefits of taking notes by hand, though it does use the Cornell notes format.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2015 at 9:30 am

Posted in Education, Science

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