Random links

Israel won't recognize Armenian genocide, says ambassador
Turkey is one of the few Muslim-majority Arab countries that Israel gets along with semi-well which probably explains this decision. Still the wrong one though.
FBI admits flaws in hair analysis over decades
"The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000." It's worth noting that "The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison" though even if this bit of evidence was faulty its possible that a substantial portion might still have been convicted.
Up Next: Lava Lamps?
Sounds weird, but it seems that giving cows waterbeds results in them being more comfortable and as a result producing more milk. There's even an introductory video to go along with it.
Graphene light bulb set for shops
A combination of cheaper, longer-lasting, and more-energy-efficient sounds good to me.

Walter Scott and child support

I've mentioned Walter Scott's murder twice before, but here's a third side of the case. The New York Times yesterday published Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat. which focuses on the completely idiotic approach to child support collection, though it seems a specific case of larger trends of both the criminalization of poverty and the breakdown of family structures:

By his own telling, the first time Walter L. Scott went to jail for failure to pay child support, it sent his life into a tailspin. He lost what he called “the best job I ever had” when he spent two weeks in jail. ... “Every job he has had, he has gotten fired from because he went to jail because he was locked up for child support,” said Mr. Scott, whose brother was working as a forklift operator when he died. “He got to the point where he felt like it defeated the purpose.”
... Though the threat of jail is considered an effective incentive for people who are able but unwilling to pay, many critics assert that punitive policies are trapping poor men in a cycle of debt, unemployment and imprisonment.

I'm not quite sure how "suspending driver’s licenses and professional licenses, and then imposing jail time" is supposed to enable the poor to repay debts and seems only to reenforce a culture of poverty.

Unless something's changed the same happens as well in Canada. e.g. back in 2010:

Paul had been paying regular child support since 1996. But during the trucking industry's recent hard times, Paul was temporarily unemployed, and missed two support payments.
Although he was soon back at work, Paul's commercial licence was suspended by the FRO. They refused to reinstate it without payment of $1,500 Paul hadn't yet earned. Their irrational licence suspension ensured he couldn't earn it.

That story didn't lead off with that but rather that Ontario had begun to seize cars as well of those owing child support. Again, not exactly a great way to make it easy to make a living. The same system seems to exist in Alberta as well.

As the original NYT story here noted, jail for nonpayment can be effective in some instances but the system definitely doesn't seem to be getting all those instances right. It seems to me that there should be a lot of justification needed to take away someone's means of earning a living if they aren't able to pay their bills.

If talking of over-incarceration the following bits of the NYT story seem worth noting:

in 2009, a survey in South Carolina found that one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support. In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010. The Record of Hackensack, N.J., reported last year that 1,800 parents had been jailed or given ankle monitors in two New Jersey counties in 2013.

Random links

Book by Charlie Hebdo editor Charb published posthumously
"A book on Islamophobia written by late Charlie Hebdo editor Charb, completed two days before he was killed in an attack on the weekly's Paris offices on January 7, is to be published on Thursday. In a short book which at times feels chillingly prescient, Charb – whose real name is Stéphane Charbonnier – expressed concern that the fight against racism is being replaced by a struggle against 'Islamophobia', which he argued defends Islam more than it does Muslims."
Germany’s army is so under-equipped that it used broomsticks instead of machine guns
"The German army has faced a shortage of equipment for years, but the situation has recently become so precarious that some soldiers took matters into their own hands. On Tuesday, German broadcaster ARD revealed that German soldiers tried to hide the lack of arms by replacing heavy machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise last year." As the article notes, these particular troops are part of a task-force that'd be first to be deployed in event of NATO action.
Flawed IQ scoring system: Important difference in American, Canadian scoring systems
To cite a researcher in the article: "Research shows that you can go from being classified as average to intellectually impaired based only on whether American or Canadian norms are used to rank the obtained raw IQ score."
About 200 000 ‘new’ species are not!
How much should you trust claims about the total number of species in existence?

Recording police activity - how effective is it?

I wonder how many quotes like this one we might see in years ahead.

The officer wasn’t wearing his body camera, and his police cruiser’s dashboard camera was not activated because the car’s emergency lights were not on, Belmar said.

And then there are systems like this:

"We've got now five cameras in every regular beat officer's patrol car that captures, like, a 270-degree field of view around the car," ... The system captures up to 40 hours of video, which makes it possible for officers to go back in time. If they drive by something that may be important but don't notice it immediately, the technology allows them to revisit it later.

What do you figure the odds are that the fraction of behavior claimed to be abusive that occurred in the (360-270=90) degrees of the car not covered by cameras goes up after the introduction of those cameras? Police officers are likely to know where exactly the blind spots are.

And then there's what happened in a scenario in Ferguson that would have made a far better case there for pointing to abuse than the far-more-dubious case of Michael Brown:

Indisputable evidence of what transpired in the cell might have been provided by a surveillance camera, but it turned out that the VHS video was recorded at 32 times normal speed. “It was like a blur,” Schottel told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. “You couldn’t see anything.” The blur proved to be from 12 hours after the incident anyway. The cops had saved the wrong footage after Schottel asked them to preserve it.

I overall support increasing the recording of police activity, both by the police themselves as well as by bystanders when something suspicious is going on.

It's important to note though that video is only a tool, subject to the limits of those who use it. As outlined above, recording equipment operated by police is subject to human biases. Of course, the same could be said about how recordings are sometimes used against the police.

An example of that that I've previously noted was NBC's strategic editing of George Zimmerman's 911 recording to make him sound racist. The same could be said about Rodney King where you find the following description of the unedited video seen by the jury in that case:

About the time King was moving toward the officer, an amateur cameraman in an apartment across the street who had been awakened by police sirens began shooting video. He had not witnessed the several minutes in which the officers attempted to take King into custody without using their police batons. The videotape of the beating of King lasts 81 seconds. The cameraman took it to a local television station, which edited it to 68 seconds, eliminating blurry footage that also omitted King’s charge at the officer. What remained is what most of us saw again and again on television: white officers savagely beating a helpless black man for no apparent reason.
Covering the trial for The Washington Post, I was a few feet from the jurors when the unedited tape was played for them. The jaw of the jury forewoman literally dropped open; she had suspected there was more to the video than she had seen on television, and the playing of the unedited tape confirmed her fears.

There seems some evidence, as I've mentioned before, that police recordings lower crime but they're not a panacea (and there's amongst other things a need to replicate such findings).

One of the police reforms that I'd support for US policing is an external entity investigating complaints against the police rather than the the police investigating themselves. I recently mentioned the shooting of Walter Scott, and now it seems that there exists video evidence from a dashcam of him tasering an already subdued individual, an investigation of which might have resulted in Walter Scott still being alive.

There's also the question of how those shot should be treated, another issue which should be addressed:

In several recent videos of police killings, officers fail to provide medical attention to the victims they've wounded. Instead of switching from crime-stoppers to caregivers the moment a suspect is injured and harmless, as any compassionate human being would do, officers often either berate the suspect or stand idly by as the victim dies.

As I've argued before I don't think that one need take sides in this issue. Consider the evidence in a particular scenario rather than assuming that one should always support either the police or a possible victim of abusive policing.

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