Later On

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

Twitter Has A Harassment Problem In India, And Targets Say The Company Isn’t Doing Much To Fix It

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Twitter management is starting to seem criminally irresponsible. Pranav Dixit reports at Buzzfeed:

Dhanya Rajendran, the editor-in-chief of an influential Indian website called The News Minute, is used to being trolled on Twitter. Still, she wasn’t prepared for what happened on a Sunday evening in August. A few minutes past 6, a coordinated deluge of rape and death threats flooded Rajendran’s Twitter mentions. One of the abusers wanted to penetrate her with a metal rod. Another wanted her to be a part of a gang bang.

Rajendran’s crime? Tweeting about how she had walked out of a movie starring Vijay, a South Indian superstar.

Within minutes, more than 31,000 notifications crashed Rajendran’s phone. Trolls had orchestrated the harassment campaign using a hashtag, #PublicityBeepDhanya (replace “beep” with an expletive of choice), which became one of the top five trends in India for hours.

The fact that a hashtag crafted specifically to abuse someone trended for hours becamenational news in India. Vijay, whose fans started the campaign, condemned the incident. The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), an organization that aims to promote gender equality within the Indian media, urged Twitter India to be “more sensitive to online abuse, specifically of women.”

And from Twitter? Dead silence. In fact, the social network did nothing about the hashtag until Rajendran picked up the phone and contacted a personal connection at the company, a member of Twitter India’s public policy team who offered to “put a word in,” Rajendran told BuzzFeed News. An hour later, Twitter India removed the hashtag from its list of trending topics (Twitter’s rules say the social network “may prevent certain content from trending,” including content that incites “hate on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease”).

Abuse and harassment have been a global problem for Twitter for over a decade. Just last Friday, women around the world called for a Twitter boycott for a day to protest the social network’s inaction on harassment, prompting Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to unleash yet anothertweetstorm about how the company was going to be “more aggressive” about curbing harassment on its platform. Over the years, Twitter has introduced new safety features such as keyword filters, and established a Trust and Safety Council. But, say targets, none of this has been very effective in developing markets like India, which the company claims is its fastest growing market in the world.

BuzzFeed News’ interviews with more than a dozen people who are regularly harassed on Twitter in India reveal that the social network isn’t doing enough to address harassment concerns. In the trolls’ crosshairs are not just high-profile women, but Indian cricketersmale television anchors, and singers. In many cases, convincing Twitter to take down abusive accounts or remove obscene and abusive hashtags from its trending column has required harassment targets to ask favors of Twitter India employees they know personally.

And the fact that India has 22 official languages — of which Twitter supports six — complicates matters further. Twitter’s inability to deal with local language abuse in India typifies how American tech companies with global ambitions often stumble in unfamiliar international territories. After all, it’s hard to know from your San Francisco headquarters whether people responsible for reading abuse reports from India in Tamil and Bengali are doing a good job, especially since Twitter told BuzzFeed News that it’s focusing more on improving its abuse-filtering algorithms rather than hiring more humans to check multilingual harassment.

After several high-profile abuse incidents on Twitter in India over the last year, the conversation around trolling and harassment on social media has reached a fever pitch in the country. In July 2016, right-wing trolls targeted Neha Dixit, an independent journalist, after she published a story about the role of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a hypernationalist Hindu organization, in child trafficking. Trolls published Dixit’s street address on Twitter, and one of them threatened to rape her with a “thorny bush.”

In February this year, trolls threatened Gurmehar Kaur, a 20-year-old Delhi University student who had criticized the right-wing student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), was so afraid of their retaliatory rape threats that she left Delhi for a few days. And in August, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2017 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Media, Technology

An Indiana county just halted a lifesaving needle-exchange program, citing the Bible

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German Lopez reports in Vox:

“People will absolutely die as a result.”

That’s how Chris Abert of the Indiana Recovery Alliance described the consequences of an Indiana county’s decision to stop a needle exchange program, which provides clean syringes to drug users in an effort to stop the spread of infectious blood-borne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.

Lawrence County commissioners’ reasoning: morals — and the Bible.

“It was a moral issue with me. I had severe reservations that were going to keep me from approving that motion,” County Commissioner Rodney Fish, who voted against the program, told NBC News. “I did not approach this decision lightly. I gave it a great deal of thought and prayer. My conclusion was that I could not support this program and be true to my principles and my beliefs.”

Before he cast his vote, Fish quoted the Bible — specifically, 2 Chronicles 7. It says, “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

The empirical evidence, however, is on the needle exchange programs’ side. Abert said that it’s led to a 50 percent decrease in hepatitis C cases in Lawrence County so far this year. And multiple reviews of the evidence by the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others have overwhelmingly supported needle exchanges.

Abert also argued that, if anything, the Bible teaches people to help those in need — exactly what a needle exchange program aims to do. “Christians believe their spiritual life is defined by how well they mirror Christ’s work in their daily lives,” he told me.

But that didn’t persuade commissioners, and they voted against the program.

Indiana’s troubled history with needle exchanges

This isn’t the first time needle exchange programs have proven controversial in Indiana.

In 2015, the southeastern part of the state suffered an HIV epidemic linked to the injection use of Opana, a prescription painkiller that’s been widely misused throughout the opioid crisis. Back then, state lawmakers — including then-Gov. Mike Pence — were opposed to a needle exchange program. It was only after the HIV epidemic worsened that Pence finally relentedallowing a needle exchange program in Scott County and later signing a law that lets counties set up needle exchange programs if they prove they have an epidemic.

But some counties have been resistant to the concept. NBC News reported that earlier this year, Madison County also shut down a needle exchange program due to pressure from the local prosecutor and Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who was elected in November and opposes needle exchange programs.

Lawrence County was among the several that got permission for a needle exchange program. But this month, the program was halted pending reapproval from county commissioners. The law requires county approval for the program on an annual basis, even though the needle exchange does not use county or state funding.

On Tuesday, county commissioners voted against the needle exchange program. They heard from some members of the community who were opposed to the program, but Abert said that a drug court judge, academics, and health care providers also testified in favor of it. Ultimately, the commissioners sided with the opposition.

“It came down to morally, they’re breaking the law. I can’t condone that,” County Commissioner Dustin Gabhart said, according to Indiana Public Media. “Yes, it’s a problem. Yes, it needs to be resolved. I could not give them the tools to do it.”

Needle exchanges save lives. Period.

The common argument against needle exchange programs, echoed by Indiana officials, is that they enable drug use by providing people with the tools to use drugs. And, they claim, that may lead to more drug use.

The claims are not borne out by the evidence. A 1998 study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University found needle exchange programs generally reduced the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. A 2004 study from the World Health Organization, which analyzed two decades of evidence, produced similar results. A 2016 review of 15 studiesby the CDC did as well.

As one example, the CDC noted that once Washington, DC, was able to implement a needle exchange program, an evaluation “showed a 70 percent decrease in new HIV cases among [injection drug use] and a total of 120 HIV cases averted in two years.”

This is, frankly, not a remotely controversial topic in the research: Needle exchange programs save lives. Many people are going to find ways to use drugs no matter what, and providing them with clean syringes at least eliminates some of the risk tied to that drug use.

Experts also say needle exchange sites can be crucial for linking people to addiction treatment. For an upcoming story, John Brooklyn, an addiction doctor in Vermont, told me that these programs can be critical for “meeting people where they are.” The idea is simple: Addiction treatment staff can drop by these needle exchange programs and offer their services. People won’t always take up the suggestion, but it helps reinforce that treatment is around and available. . .

Continue reading.

It’s an odd morality that condones actions that will result in people dying who otherwise would not die. I would not call it a Christian outlook.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2017 at 12:42 pm

One drug dealer, two corrupt cops and a risky FBI sting

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The blurb:

Davon Mayer was a smalltime dealer in west Baltimore who made an illicit deal with local police. When they turned on him, he decided to get out – but escaping that life would not prove as easy as falling into it.

Yudhijit Bhattacharjee reports in the Guardian:

On a humid summer day in 2004, Davon Mayer stepped out of his house on Bennett Place in the heart of Baltimore. Sixteen years old, Davon was short, plump and baby-faced, still more of a kid than an adolescent. Like many other boys in his neighbourhood, he had long since stopped going to school and was dealing drugs full-time.

On any other day, Davon would have been busy by this hour, trading vials of crack for cash on the pavement, keeping an eye out for the police. But this morning, he was on his way to meet with a narcotics detective named William King. Weeks earlier, the detective had arrested Davon after catching him selling drugs. He had taken Davon to the police station and then let him go, asking that Davon call him. When Davon failed to call, King had paid him a visit to let him know he wasn’t playing around.

As Davon walked to a nearby strip mall where King had arranged to meet, his mind was weighed down by anxiety. What could a city detective possibly want from a small-time drug dealer such as himself? The only answer Davon could think of was that King wanted him to become an informant. The more Davon dwelled on that possibility, the more panicked he got. Where he came from, there was nothing worse than helping the police. To snitch on fellow drug dealers was to invite death.

He got to the mall’s parking lot and saw King’s pickup truck. King was sitting behind the wheel, dressed in sweatpants and a T-shirt. He asked Davon to get in the back seat and turned on the engine. “I have been watching you,” King said, as they drove around. “I like the way you do business.”


Growing up, Davon’s parents weren’t around much. His father, Marvin “Bunk” Nutter, spent much of his son’s childhood in jail on robbery and murder charges. Davon’s mother, Tonya, spent some of those years in jail, too, for drug possession, and the rest on the streets, sustaining her crack addiction with prostitution. Davon reserved the word “Ma” for his grandmother, Norma, who had raised him, along with his sister and a cousin.

Norma was a small woman with a big presence, a matriarch to the entire block. She had fought her own battle with drug addiction when she was younger; at one point, her kids had been taken away by social services. When she finally overcame her addiction, she committed herself to discipline and order, toiling from morning till night to take care of her husband, a factory worker, and three grandkids. The entire block could be dirty and dishevelled but the front of 947 Bennett Place was always spick and span.

What Davon didn’t know at the time was that Norma couldn’t remain insulated from the world of drug dealing herself. Even though her husband earned enough for her to be able to feed and clothe the kids, she struggled to find the money to take care of their wants – toys for Christmas, gifts on birthdays, an occasional afternoon out to the movies. And so she had to make a few bucks on her own. There were drug dealers in the neighbourhood who trusted Norma to keep their money safe for them, to provide a place where it wouldn’t be stolen or discovered in a police raid. Dealers usually paid her a small amount for the service.

Despite Norma’s best efforts, by the time Davon was about 11, he began to feel the pull of the drug business. He was growing more and more conscious of all the things he wanted that his grandmother couldn’t give him. All the boys he knew in the neighbourhood seemed to own a pair of Nike Air Jordan sneakers, but not even in his wildest dreams could he ask Norma for the $100 it would cost to buy a pair.

Davon told a friend, AC, who worked for a dealer in west Baltimore, that he wanted to make some money. One morning, AC took Davon to see one of the dealer’s men, LJ, outside a row of apartment buildings on Pennsylvania Avenue. Davon felt himself trembling a little as LJ looked him over from head to toe. Then he handed Davon a sandwich bag with 50 vials of crack, each capped with a purple top.

Davon slid the pack of vials into his pocket as LJ and AC walked off. He stood nervously in the fenced passageway leading to the door of the apartment building, wondering what he would do if the cops came. Minutes later, a young woman with a sickly pallor came out of the apartment building; recognising him right away as the seller, she asked him for a vial. After Davon had sold to her, he turned around to find a crowd of at least a dozen other buyers waiting on the sidewalk. The pack was gone within minutes.

LJ gave him another pack, which Davon dispensed with in short order. At the end of his first day’s work, Davon had $750 in dollar bills. It was more cash than he had seen before. He was allowed to keep $75. Walking back to Bennett Place, Davon felt a sense of exhilaration.

Over the summer, as Davon’s shoebox savings grew, he couldn’t resist the Jordans, deluding himself that they would somehow escape notice at home. But one night, when he was sitting in the living room talking on the phone, his mother Tonya overheard him bragging about the sneakers.

“Davon, where did you get these shoes from?” Tonya asked him.

“I got them from Bunk,” he answered, without skipping a beat. His father had got out of jail the previous year, and came around every few days.

Tonya didn’t believe him. She called Bunk, and he came over the next day to take the shoes away and give Davon a beating. He warned Davon to stay off the streets. But Davon was back on Pennsylvania Avenue the very next day. He was hooked on the money he was making. A few weeks later, he packed up his things and left home.


As he built up a reputation for hard work, Davon’s boss gave him more drugs to sell and his earnings went up to more than $500 a day. He had moved into the apartment building where he’d been selling drugs, living with an addict named Lisa who let him stay in a spare bedroom in exchange for her daily fix of crack. At night, he would lie on the floor of his bare room, longing for the comfort of the bed he had left behind at Norma’s house. Sometimes, staring out of the window, he would feel so overcome by loneliness that he would break down and cry.

One afternoon in August 2000, Davon was caught selling drugs by police. He felt a tingle of excitement as he was marched into a police van. He would finally be able to brag about having been to jail. The price of this glory would be minimal, too: as a minor, he expected to be let off lightly.

Davon was released later that day, returning home with his mother. Over the next few days, he mulled over whether to return to Pennsylvania Avenue. He didn’t want to go to prison and decided he was better off going to school, which was about to reopen after the summer break. He was also concerned about Norma, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

From the very first day of school, Davon felt a restlessness that quickly transformed into a yearning for his old life. At school, the popular kids were much better dressed than he was. The girls he liked paid him no attention. Davon felt he had taken a big step down in status.

Frustrated, he decided to dip his toe back into the drug business. After school let out in the afternoon, he would go over to a street three blocks from Bennett Place and hustle for a couple of hours before coming home. By the winter, he had saved enough money to buy his first car, an old Grand Marquis. He didn’t want Tonya or Norma to see it, so he parked it a few blocks away and walked the rest of the way home.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 2001, Norma’s health worsened. She would spend most of her time in bed. One day in November, after Davon had started in 10th grade, he went into Norma’s bedroom to check on her. She looked like she was napping, but he touched her, and she was cold.

Two years later, Davon lost another family member, when his father was shot in a revenge killing. That night, for the first time in his life, Davon got drunk. Sitting by himself, he wept uncontrollably, although he would never quite understand why he felt so much grief over the loss of a father who had barely been present in his life.

By this point, Davon had long since quit school and his drug-dealing career was taking off. He had seen smalltime dealers in his neighbourhood remain stuck at the bottom of the pyramid, and he hustled day and night to move up. Once he realised there was more money to be made from selling heroin than crack, he branched out into a neighbourhood west of Bennett Place. He was making more than $1,500 a day. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2017 at 10:57 am

Is Gorsuch Driving a Wedge Between Conservatives on the Court?

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Nancy LeToureau writes in the Washington Monthly:

When Neil Gorsuch was going through his confirmation hearings, it was clear that he would stake out a far right position on the Supreme Court. But the demeanor he projected and the way he was described by his supporters sent the message that he was a thoughtful, though determined conservative. As Mark Joseph Stern wrote, he “was packaged by his wealthy benefactors as the judicial equivalent of a carrot cake: mild and wholesome with the occasional hint of spice.”

After only a few months on the Court, it’s clear that all of that was merely a performance. Here is how some of the people who regularly cover the Supreme Court describe Gorsuch’s performance:

Linda Greenhouse:

Whether out of ignorance or by deliberate choice, Neil Gorsuch is a norm breaker. He’s the new kid in class with his hand always up, the boy on the playground who snatches the ball out of turn. He is in his colleagues’ faces pointing out the error of their ways, his snarky tone oozing disrespect toward those who might, just might, know what they are talking about. It’s hard to ascribe this behavior to ignorance — he was, after all, like three of his colleagues, once a Supreme Court law clerk. But if it’s not ignorance, what is it? How could the folksy “Mr. Smith Goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee” morph so quickly into Donald Trump’s life-tenured judicial avatar?

Jeffrey Toobin:

He dominated oral arguments, when new Justices are expected to hang back. He instructed his senior colleagues, who collectively have a total of a hundred and forty years’ experience on the Court, about how to do their jobs. Dissenting from a decision that involved the interpretation of federal laws, he wrote, “If a statute needs repair, there’s a constitutionally prescribed way to do it. It’s called legislation.” Perhaps he thought that the other Justices were unfamiliar with this thing called “legislation.” Gorsuch also expressed ill-disguised contempt for Anthony Kennedy’s landmark opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in all fifty states. Earlier this year, the Court’s majority overturned an Arkansas ruling that the state could refuse to put the name of a birth mother’s same-sex spouse on their child’s birth certificate. Dissenting, Gorsuch wrote, “Nothing in Obergefell spoke (let alone clearly) to the question.”

Joan Biskupic:

It can be difficult for people outside the marble walls to know truly the relationships among the nine in their private chambers. But word seeps out, through clerks and other staff, through the justices’ friends, and through the justices themselves. Such communications make clear that Gorsuch has generated some ill will among justices. Signs have emerged from the bench, too, as Gorsuch has been on the receiving end of a few retorts.

Nina Totenberg noted that Gorsuch “ticks off some members of the court—and I don’t think it’s just the liberals,” and then provided this:

My surmise, from what I’m hearing, is that Justice [Elena] Kagan really has taken [Gorsuch] on in conference. And that it’s a pretty tough battle and it’s going to get tougher. And she is about as tough as they come, and I am not sure he’s as tough—or dare I say it, maybe not as smart. I always thought he was very smart, but he has a tin ear somehow, and he doesn’t seem to bring anything new to the conversation.

That is quite the bombshell for several reasons. No one attends conference but the justices. So if this kind of information has been leaked, it almost certainly came from one of them. Justices almost never talk about what goes on in conference. When they do, it is for a reason.

The fact that it is Justice Kagan who is taking Gorsuch on is fascinating. When it comes to the liberal side of the court,  . . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. Very interesting.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2017 at 10:30 am

Posted in Government, Law

Return to Tcheon Fung Sing, but the soap, with Fatip Testina Gentile

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Since I enjoyed my second outing with Tcheon Fung Sing’s shaving cream, I thought I’d return to their shaving soap. The Edwin Jagger synthetic, like The Grooming Company synthetic, was not immediately pleasing, but both have grown on me, and I selected it today. A good hard shake to remove excess water from the brush, and a lovely lather ensued. I noted with interest that Tcheon Fung Sing seems to have arisen from the ashes of World War II, being founded in 1945.

Fatip’s Testina Gentile razor always provides an excellent shave, very comfortable and smooth and very efficient. Three passes later, my face was once again BBS.

A splash of Chatillon Lux’s Gratiot Square League aftershave, and the weekend begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 October 2017 at 10:26 am

Posted in Shaving

Interesting new foods

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I’ve mentioned finding beef heart and now also pig’s heart in the supermarket (one that has a relatively large Chinese customer base), along with pig bung, beef kidney, pig kidney. Today I saw a couple that were new to me: pig uterus and pig blood. I went for the latter: a block of congealed blood, which in the West is used to make blood pudding (mixed with oatmeal, for example). But this was a simple block of blood, which looked like brown tofu and had the consistency of tofu as well (fairly firm tofu).

I had not real idea how to cook it, so I went with a simple approach: some olive oil in a skillet, in which I cooked some chopped onion, minced garlic, salt, and pepper until the onion was pretty well cooked. Then I took a slab of the pig blood, cut it in half to make two thin slabs, and sautéed those on each side until I judged it done.

Not bad at all. Not a strong taste, but I imagine the dish is high in iron. . . Hmm. I can’t find “pig blood” or “blood” in the nutrition database. The closest I get is blood sausage, not particularly high in iron. (Pig spleen, which they also had and I bought recently, is quite high in iron.)

For those who are still fatphobic, I highly recommend The Big Fat Surprise, by Nina Teicholz.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 October 2017 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Food, Low carb, Recipes

The Breakthrough: Curiosity Drove Her to Call 1,000 People

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In ProPublica Jessica Huseman has an interesting interview with Rosalind Adams in a 25-minute podcast about a somewhat frightening development in psychiatric hospitals. Well worth a listen. Huseman writes:

The investigation started modestly enough — with documents anyone could have seen. Buried amid the public financial records of Universal Health Services, the largest psychiatric hospital chain in America, was a disclosure to its investors: It was under federal investigation.

BuzzFeed’s Rosalind Adams was curious. She embarked on her own investigation, to figure out, simply, why.

She built a spreadsheet of every person she could find online who was associated with the chain, from employees on LinkedIn to patients who had written reviews on Yelp. “I’m sure I called thousands of people,” she said. “This whole world opens up when you start making phone calls and asking questions.”

She talked to 18 executives who ran hospitals, cold-calling some and knocking on doors. She gained the trust of sources who slipped her security footage and insider documents.

After months of work, she found that multiple UHS hospitals had been accused of committing patients who didn’t need care in order to get their insurance payments, and for turning away patients who did need care, but could not pay.

Hospital CEOs told her they were instructed to use all insurance days available to them, even if a patient didn’t need to be hospitalized for that long.

Adams found that in one hospital, a 6-year-old boy who misbehaved at school was locked away for three days. In another, hospital employees were caught on video dangerously restraining a 9-year-old boy. “That’s how people die,” a nationally recognized restraint expert told BuzzFeed after seeing the footage.

UHS denied allegations that it held patients for purely financial gain, and said Adams’ work was based on “anecdotal accounts” and “personal perspectives.” The company said she drew “false conclusions” and ignored those who had positive experiences to weave a “false narrative.”

Regardless, her investigation produced results. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, has demanded answers from UHS. One hospital lost its ability to care for foster kids and has been stripped of Medicaid fundingThe FBIand the Department of Defense — which is scrutinizing billings to the military insurance plan, Tricare — launched investigations into the chain for keeping patients longer than necessary to boost profits.

Her investigation continues. Follow her on Twitter and on BuzzFeed.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 October 2017 at 2:38 pm

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