Archive for: December 2010

Another day, another airport security meltdown

Claire Hirschkind, 56, is a rape victim. She has a medical implant similar to a pacemaker. She set off an airport security metal detector. Solution? Grope her. When she objects, shove her to the ground, cuff her, and drag her out.

Text version here.

H/T: KVUE News via Daily Dish.

What’s happened to the United States of America?

For all its foreign policy lapses, the United States has long stood as a beacon of individual freedom. The US Constitution and Bill of Rights constrain government action against individuals to a degree unimagined elsewhere in the world. Even the most criticized parts of the Bill of Rights, like the Second Amendment guarantee of the right ro bear arms, are, in William O. Douglas’s felicitous phrase, “designed to take the government off the backs of people.”

It is commonplace to observe that the September 11 attacks undermined those constraints.

In the run-up to Christmas, Glenn Greenwald, Salon’s tenacious legal affairs reporter, produced a series of stunning posts about the US military’s inhumane treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of passing a massive diplomatic cable trove to Wikileaks currently detained  in solitary confinement in a two-meter by three-meter cell.

ManningSince his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared from the start to be a “Maximum Custody Detainee,” the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series of inhumane measures imposed on him.

From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day — for seven straight months and counting — he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he’s barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he’s being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not “like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole,” but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.

Remember, Manning hasn’t been convicted of anything. He is merely in pre-trial detention. A blog post by Lt. Col. David Coombs, Manning’s lawyer, fleshes out the picture:

Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards….
PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day.
The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.
He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets. However, he is given access to two blankets and has recently been given a new mattress that has a built-in pillow.
He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.
He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.
When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.

Under the rules for the confinement facility, he is not allowed to sleep at anytime between 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. If he attempts to sleep during those hours, he will be made to sit up or stand by the guards….

PFC Manning is held in his cell for approximately 23 hours a day.

The guards are required to check on PFC Manning every five minutes by asking him if he is okay. PFC Manning is required to respond in some affirmative manner. At night, if the guards cannot see PFC Manning clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure he is okay.

He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets. However, he is given access to two blankets and has recently been given a new mattress that has a built-in pillow.

He is prevented from exercising in his cell. If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.

He does receive one hour of “exercise” outside of his cell daily. He is taken to an empty room and only allowed to walk. PFC Manning normally just walks figure eights in the room for the entire hour. If he indicates that he no long feels like walking, he is immediately returned to his cell.

When PFC Manning goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his boxer shorts and surrender his clothing to the guards. His clothing is returned to him the next morning.

The New York Times picked up the story this morning, albeit in a blog post, not in the paper itself. The UN’s top torture official is now  said to be investigating Manning’s case.

Find Greenwald’s initial post on Manning’s treatment here. A later post theorizes that the military is trying to break Manning down to obtain evidence of collusion with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Despite florid rhetoric directed against Assange (including repeated nonsensical demands he be charged with treason, a crime of which no non-citizen can be guilty), there is no credible basis for a charge against him.

Why the other line always moves faster

And why single queues, like those at Sydney Credit Union branches and Empire Theatre concession stands, work better. The Engineer Guy explains:

H/T: Silas.

Don’t steal a hacker’s computer

An early Contrarian post told the amazing story of how Kevin Miller got his iPhone back after he misplaced it in a Chicago bar. Miller got crucial help from an Apple app called “Find My iPhone,” which can remotely track an Apple phone’s geo-location information and send it to the registered owner in real time.

There’s no such app for an ordinary desktop—unless you happen to steal the beloved computer of clever hacker called Zoz. He recounted the story, replete with poorly disguised NSFW nudity, at Def Con 18, the underground hackers’ conference. (The actual story begins at the 3:15 mark, but you can move the slider to that point.)

Ironically, it was Zoz’s own security lapses that enabled him to track the computer down two years after it was taken in a break-in.

H/T: Gizmodo.

How not to do an interview

Mount St. Vincent PR students looking for a case study on how not to do an interview may want to file away this CBC-Cape Breton year-end interview with John Lynn, CEO of Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation.

Interviewer Steve Sutherland comes off as polite, patient, and persistent. Lynn’s obvious beefs with local media coverage may or may not be valid, but he undercuts his message by appearing peevish and evasive.

Anger rarely works on radio or TV. This guy needs to dial it back.

Email fogeys

Email DeclineWho uses email? According to the New York Times, it’s the same people who “still watch movies on a VCR, listen to vinyl records, and shoot photos on film.”

At left, Comscore, the Internet rating agency, graphs the startling demographic split in email use.

The drop is sharpest among the Internet generation, while email use by those over 55 showed a sharp uptick, perhaps reflecting the fact that more and more, ahem, old people are getting on line.

Total email use is falling too. The Times says the total number of unique US visitors to major e-mail sites like Yahoo and Hotmail peaked in November, 2009, and has since slid 6 percent. Visits by  12- to 17-year-olds fell around 18 percent. The only exception? Visits to Gmail are 10 percent from a year ago.

The trend to texting parallels an earlier noted shift away from phone calls by young people. So why hasn’t someone produced a mobile device whose only function is to send and receive text messages?

Imagine no pettiness

Contrarian reader Ritchie Simpson upbraids me for whining about prime ministerial ivory tickling to the tune of John Lennon’s Imagine.

If you don’t our political system to be reduced to an unending morass of partisan sniping and snide asides where nothing is accomplished because it may benefit the other side, then please refrain from making small minded comments. The shadow of pettiness covers more than just our politicians. if you want our politics raised out of the morass of point scoring then you must judge yourself as you judge others.

I hate to sound like some overly pious prig or worse your mother, but there are better, pointed, and deserved insults for our political leadership than this and you of all people should be capable of making them.

OK, OK, I take your point, but c’mon, Imagine? Stephen Harper?

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Visual data: 200 countries over 200 years

Our old friend Hans Rosling, the Swedish public health statistician whose Gapminder software brings demographic trends vividly to life (previous menions here and here), is back with a new BBC video tracking the health and wealth of nations over two centuries:

If you’d like to drill down into the data and watch a particular country’s progress or compare two or three countries, the Gapminder file on which this video is based will let you do that. You can also download the software to your own desktop. Amazing stuff, and should give pause to those who are certain the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Is anyone plugging Canadian data into these tools?

H/T: Roland McCaffrey.

It’ll be a Dobro, Dobro Christmas without you

With a little help from a Dobro, Graham Breeze and Toby Wilson bring a Christmas classic closer to its roots in the version first recorded by Ernest Tubb in 1948:

Harper’s not the only singing leader

Another leader with image problems takes a page from PM Harper’s fakebook:

Remarkable parallels here — similar image problem, similar soft-soap remedy. At least Putin didn’t sully John Lennon’s memory.

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