May 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM

A COUPLE GREAT MEMORIAL DAY GIVEAWAYS:

We have recently received a couple opportunities for promotional giveaways and Memorial Day Weekend seems like a good time.

First, we gave away two copies of Harry Turtledove's new novel in the NCAA Final Four contest, but I figured I'd give mine away too.  Our review is posted here.


Meanwhile, a couple years ago we received and reviewed an interesting graphic novel about sleep, of all things, R.E.M.  The creative team behind that effort are now working on a Samurai/Spaghetti Western that looks promising and they're raising money to complete the project on Kickstarter:

Orient City: Ronin & The Princess is a samurai spaghetti western that features gorgeous hand-drawn animation mixed with white-knuckle action. It combines the characteristics of the American Wild West with the architecture of Feudal Asia, inspired by the styles of steampunk and anime. Traditional western haunts such as bars, brothels and barbershops feature characteristics such as Chinese rooftops, dragon gargoyles, Chinese lampions and bamboo construction stands.

Towering up through the clouds, Orient City was built vertically on top of four rocks connected by the channels of water at their base. A city whose poor dwell at the bottom, quite literally. They live in favela-like neighborhoods, carved into the rock walls but featuring a distinct oriental-style. As the city rises up, connected by stairways and cable cars, so do the classes and high society lives an opulent, wasteful lifestyle above the clouds.

At the center of it all is Boshi, a fallen samurai who has sworn to protect a young girl whose family has been assassinated. Together they head to Orient City for one thing... revenge.

What sets apart Orient City is not only the quality of the story but also the experience and talents of the filmmaking team. The combination of hand-drawn animation with modern day filmmaking technology enables us to make something breathtaking with a relatively low cost. Our process will allow us to make a high quality picture with a shorter production schedule and less capital.

We have been building the world of Orient City for the last few years... and now we have the first story we would like to tell in this world. 10 minutes of hand-drawn animation is a lot of drawing (roughly 6,000 frames)... but we drink a lot of espresso.

There is a lot of work that has been done already. The script is written, the storyboards are done, the animatic is complete and edited and the scenery is built to the last tumbleweed. But there is a lot of work still to do... and we now need help doing it.

The short will have roughly 6,000 frames.

Zsombor can do roughly 20 keyframes per day. For him to do this on his own, it would take at least 15 months working full-time on the short. It just is not feasible.

That said, Zsombor will draw the 1000 key frames needed, as well as set the colors for each sequence.

For the other 5000 frames we need to bring on Colorists and In-Between Character Animators.

We are scheduled to be completed 24 weeks after a successful campaign. That means we will be able to deliver rewards before the holidays. The animation process will include:

Background Rendering
Background Painting
Voice Recording
Key Frame Animation
In-Between Animation
Ambience building and Visual Effects
Sound Design & Score

We have tested our pipeline on the opening shot and now... we are ready to make this dream a reality!

Financing for independent filmmakers is extremely hard to come by. Financing for first-time animation directors on a hand-drawn film is even harder. Financing for those filmmakers in that medium for a short film is essentially non-existent.

Our graphic novel R.E.M. received an overwhelming amount of support through Kickstarter and we have decided to return to this amazing community as we leap from the printed page to the screen.


In exchange for helping to spread the word, Mr Colucci is offering a an Art Print still from the film to one of our readers.

If you'd like to be entered in the drawing for book and/or print please just email me directly or leave a comment.

OJ





May 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM

THERE IS NO IRAQ:

As Baghdad Government Stumbles, Iraqi Kurdistan Officials Call For Partition (ERIN BANCO,  05/25/16, IB Times)

In a desperate bid to turn things around, [Kirkuk Gov. Najmaldin Karim] has proposed a radical fix: breaking away from the central government in Baghdad. 

"Kirkuk needs to get away from Baghdad," he recently told reporters, adding that the chaos in central government -- embroiled in a dispute over the appointment of a new cabinet -- is responsible for impoverishing the oil-rich province. 

Oil is the main source of Iraqi Kurdistan's revenues and the suspension of exports over the last several months has further limited the already cash-strapped region. If Karim's call for separation is realized the region could take control of its oil exports and ensure that money flows back into the local economy.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM

YOU MEAN BESIDES TRYING TO KILL THE KID?:

911 tapes: Aborted fetus was breathing (WKYC, 5/23/16)

In the 911 calls, a clinic worker told the dispatcher a fetus that was removed had vital signs.

"There was a termination that was performed," the worker said. "There is a fetus that is breathing right now, so we need someone to do services."

The 911 operator asks if the fetus has been harmed in any way.

The worker answered no, and said the fetus needed further help other than what the clinic could provide.

"The fetus is breathing so we need care for it now," said the caller. "We can't provide that care except for oxygen and we're trying to keep the fetus stable until someone arrives."

Federal law states that a clinic has to provide medical care to a baby who survives an abortion.

That was the case in this incident.

"Nobody did anything wrong," said Kat Sabine, Executive Director of the Arizona chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America in April when she spoke with 12 News.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 PM

AND CHEAPER...:

A NEW SOLAR CELL CONVERTS THE SUN'S HEAT INTO USABLE ENERGY (Mary Beth Griggs  5/25/16, Popular Science)

In a paper published this week in Nature Energy researchers describe building a working solar thermophotovoltaic device, or STPV. The STPV solar cell has a layer that absorbs heat and light from sunlight and reflects it back out as light, which is then captured by a nearby solar cell and turned into power. The light emitted by the device is calibrated to be the perfect wavelength for the solar cell, making it function at peak efficiency. Normally, a solar cell or photovoltaic device just convert light into electricity without going through the intermediate step with heat.

Heat is energy that is constantly wasted, just dispersing out into the world. Researchers around the world have been looking into developing new materials and methods that can harness the wasted energy and put it to work. Theoretically, this new method could double the amount of power produced by a given area of solar panels...

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM

BILL'S 7TH TERM...:

How Running for 'Obama's 3rd Term' Became a Political Asset for Hillary Clinton (Ed Kilgore, 5/25/16, NY Mag)

Barack Obama's steadily improving job-approval ratings as he approaches the end of his presidency are suddenly looking less like an albatross for Clinton and more like the wind beneath her wings. It's been a gradual rise; last year, his average job-approval number in weekly tracking from Gallup was 46 percent. This last week, it was up to 51 percent -- precisely where it was the week he was reelected in 2012.  

Moreover, Obama's particular areas of political strength are well synchronized with constituencies Clinton should and must be able to attract and energize in a general-election contest with Donald Trump. According to NBC, Obama's job-approval ratings among Sanders's primary voters is 82 percent; it's 64 percent among those ages 18-34, and 73 percent among Latinos, a group that has, on occasion, felt tepid toward him. Add in his 90 percent approval rating from African-Americans, and it's obvious the so-called Obama Coalition is alive and well. So now, instead of pivoting away from Obama after she's won the nomination, Clinton can continue her close association with the incumbent as an asset in the general elections, as well as the primaries.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM

OCCUPATION NOW, OCCUPATION TOMORROW, OCCUPATION FOREVER:

Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine (Thomas L. Friedman MAY 25, 2016, NY Times)

Soon, this newspaper will have to call Netanyahu what he's made himself into: "Prime Minister of the State of Israel-Palestine."

I raise this now because Israel under Netanyahu has gone from bad to worse. He just forced out Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon. Yaalon, a former army chief of staff, is a very decent man -- a soldier's soldier, determined to preserve the Israeli Army as a people's army that aspires to the highest standards of integrity in the middle of a very dangerous neighborhood.

Netanyahu plans to replace Yaalon with the far-right Avigdor Lieberman, who boasts he could not care less what American Jews think about how Israel is behaving and a man whom, Haaretz reported, was only recently dismissed by Bibi's team as "a petty prattler," unfit to be even a military analyst, and whose closest brush with a real battle was dodging a "tennis ball."

Lieberman, when he has not been under investigation for corruption, has mused about blowing up Egypt's Aswan Dam, denounced Israelis who want Israel to get out of the West Bank as traitors and praised an Israeli soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who fatally shot a wounded Palestinian assailant in the head as he was lying on the ground awaiting medical attention.

Describing Netanyahu's dumping of Yaalon for Lieberman, Yediot Aharonot columnist Nahum Barnea wrote, "Instead of presenting to the world a more moderate government ahead of the diplomatic battles to come in the fall, Netanyahu is presenting the most radical government to ever exist in Israeli history."

Yaalon himself warned, "Extremist and dangerous forces have taken over Israel and the Likud movement and are destabilizing our home and threatening to harm its inhabitants." Former Labor Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "What has happened is a hostile takeover of the Israeli government by dangerous elements." Former Likud Defense Minister Moshe Arens wrote in Haaretz that Bibi and his far-right cronies "insulted not only Yaalon, they insulted the I.D.F. [Israeli Army]. It's a people's army."

It's fine to keep them as long as you give them the franchise and other civil rights.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM

THE QUINTESSENTIAL TRUMP MOMENT...

In New Mexico, Donald Trump attacks GOP governor, anti-Trump protesters attack police (Peter Weber, 5/25/16, The Week)
 
In Albuquerque on Tuesday, Donald Trump held his first campaign rally in almost two weeks, and he used his speech to criticize Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Gov. Susana Martinez (R-N.M.), the first Latina governor and current head of the Republican Governors Association. [...]

This was Trump's first visit to New Mexico. It was not the first violent protest outside a Trump rally.

...attacking a Republican Latina.
Posted by orrinj at 7:50 PM

MOST IMPORTANTLY...:

Mitt Romney, Run for President (DAVID FRENCH May 24, 2016, National Review)

 I understand why Mitt wouldn't want to run. He's lost twice, running for president is grueling at best, and the vitriol of 2016 makes 2012 look like a gentlemen's debating club. He would be savaged and vilified by the progressive left and by Trump's ragged coalition of working-class white voters and Vichy Republicans. He'd be blamed for hurting Trump if Clinton won. For Mitt Romney, there is little upside. 

For the nation, however, there is little downside. If either Trump or Clinton win, America loses. A third-party Romney bid would introduce the chance of a different outcome, giving millions of Americans the important option to choose a man of integrity as their president. It's not just politically important that voters have at least one honest choice, and that parents can tell their children that they stood against the debasement of American politics and the bankruptcy of our national character; it's culturally critical.

...a third party run would guarantee Trump couldn't win.



Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM

WE'LL REFORM IT, NOT REPEAL IT:

Obamacare is helping millions get needed healthcare, new survey finds (Noam N. Levey, 5/25/16, LA Times)
 
More than 60% of working-age Americans who signed up for Medicaid or a private health plan through the Affordable Care Act are getting healthcare they couldn't previously get, a new nationwide survey indicates.

And consumers are broadly satisfied with the new coverage, despite some cost challenges and an ongoing Republican campaign to discredit the law.

Overall, 82% of American adults enrolled in private or government coverage through the health law said they were "somewhat" or "very" satisfied,  according to the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM

YOUR NEXT CAR WILL BE A VOLT:

Are Ultra-Fast Charging Stations Apple's Big Electric Vehicle Play? (Liane Yvkoff, 5/25/16, Forbes))

Could Apple AAPL +1.77% be trying to reinvent electric car charging? Reports suggest the company that dissed standard Micro-USB cables for its expensive Lightning cable may be developing a charging system for its hush-hush autonomous electric car.

Reuters reports that Apple is talking with several electric car charging station companies about their underlying technology. However, no company would talk in detail about the discussions, and it's not clear if the Cupertino-based company is working on a proprietary vehicle charging technology similar to Tesla's Supercharger network or something that will play nice with all chargers. A lack of charging station infrastructure is just one of the obstacles to electric car adoption. Another is long charging times. Could Apple be working on a car battery charging solution to solve both problems?

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM

CHERRY-PICKING IKE AND REAGAN:

Clinton to make new pledge to push infrastructure bill in first 100 days (Abby Phillip May 25, 2016, Washington Post)

"All told, this proposal would represent the most significant increase in infrastructure investment since President Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System," the aide said.

Clinton has also promised to address comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM

IT'LL NEVER FLY, ORVILLE...:

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS LAUNCHED A ROCKET WITH COMPLETELY 3D-PRINTED ENGINE (Kelsey D. Atherton, 5/25/16, Pop Sci)


No one expects college kids to beat NASA to the punch. On Saturday, students at University of California San Diego launched a rocket with a completely 3D-printed engine.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM

WINNING THE WAR ON WAGES:

Adidas (ADS) To Restart Manufacturing In Germany -- Using Robots (HIMANSHU GOENKA, 05/25/16, IB Times)


German sportswear manufacturer Adidas announced Tuesday that it would resume production of shoes in Germany more than 20 years after it stopped making them in its home country. Completely overhauling the way it produces shoes, the world's second-largest sportswear maker said its new "Speedfactory" will use robots, as opposed to the manual process the company employs in its manufacturing hubs in Asia.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM

MARKET EFFICIENCY:

Have U.S. wages stagnated? Probably not. (Robert J. Samuelson  May 25, 2016, Washington Post)

Typically, the median wage -- the wage exactly in the middle of all wages -- is cited as evidence of stagnation. Indeed, the Fed study confirms this. Median wage increases have fluctuated around 2 percent, unadjusted for inflation. But the median wage is misleading, the report argues, because it's heavily driven by demographic changes: an influx of young and part-time workers whose relatively low wages drag down the median; and the retirement of baby-boom workers whose relatively higher pay no longer lifts up the median.

"Exiting workers with higher wage levels are [being] replaced by entrants to full-time employment who earn less than the median wage," says the study, which was done by economists Mary Daly and Benjamin Pyle of the San Francisco Fed and Bart Hobijn of Arizona State University. The result is that all workers, as judged by the median wage, seem to be treading water when many workers are actually receiving modest increases.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM

SOME THINGS JUST AREN'T DONE:

Why 'Hillary Is Even Worse' Doesn't Cut It (Charles Murray, 5/25/16, National Review)

In my view, Donald Trump is unfit to be president in ways that apply to no other candidate of the two major political parties throughout American history. [...]

Trump's indifference to facts is an example of why he is unfit for the presidency -- not dispositive in itself, but part of a pattern. That pattern is why "Hillary is even worse" misses the point. P. J. O'Rourke recently announced that he is voting for Clinton. "She's wrong about absolutely everything," O'Rourke said. "But she's wrong within normal parameters!" Similarly, I am saying that Clinton may be unfit to be president, but she's unfit within normal parameters. Donald Trump is unfit outside normal parameters. [....]

For conveying the essence of why I think Trump is unfit outside normal parameters, I cannot write anything nearly as concise and expressive as David Brooks wrote a few months ago. 

Donald Trump is epically unprepared to be president. He has no realistic policies, no advisers, no capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn't know what he doesn't know and he's uninterested in finding out. He insults the office Abraham Lincoln once occupied by running for it with less preparation than most of us would undertake to buy a sofa. . . . He is a childish man running for a job that requires maturity. He is an insecure boasting little boy whose desires were somehow arrested at age 12. 

Since Brooks wrote those words, Trump has become the presumptive Republican nominee, and he now does have advisors. He has had ten additional weeks to demonstrate his capacity to learn; to show that he is taking national policy more seriously than buying a sofa; to persuade us that underneath the showman exterior is presidential seriousness. My view is that he has not and cannot. What you see is what you get.



Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM

YOUR NEXT CAB WILL BE A VOLT:

London's black cabs go plug-in hybrid with generous new funding initiative (Stephen Edelstein, MAY 25, 2016, CS Monitor)

The project to build plug-in hybrid versions of the iconic London black cab is about to receive a significant new dose of funding.

The company that makes the cabs, London Taxi Company (LTC), is now owned by the Chinese carmaker Geely.

That company--which also owns Volvo--has already provided cash and design input.

Now, it's planning a bond issue to raise £276 million (about $400 million) to develop the plug-in hybrid taxis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM

TRADE, THE WOT AND GOLF...:

Obama Reasserts Hope for TPP Passage This Year (CAROL E. LEE, May 25, 2016, WSJ)

President Barack Obama told a crowd of young Vietnamese entrepreneurs that he hopes to see a new 12-nation trade pact ratified this year.

May 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 PM

FIDEL WAS RIGHT TO BE AFRAID:

Cuba to legalize small and medium-sized private businesses (MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, 5/24/16, Associated Press)

Cuba announced Tuesday that it will legalize small- and medium-sized private businesses in a move that could significantly expand private enterprise in one of the world's last communist countries.

Cuban business owners and economic experts said they were hopeful the reform would allow private firms to import wholesale supplies and export products to other countries for the first time, removing a major obstacle to private business growth.

"This is a tremendously important step," said Alfonso Valentin Larrea Barroso, director-general of Scenius, a cooperatively run economic consulting firm in Havana. "They're creating, legally speaking, the non-state sector of the economy. They're making that sector official."

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM

NOTHING IS MORE GALLING TO IDEOLOGUES...:

Tony Blair was Labour's most successful leader. No wonder Jeremy Corbyn wants to destroy him (John McTernan 23 MAY 2016, Telegraph)

"If" does a lot of the heavy lifting in the Corbynverse.  Actually "if" and its friend "only" do almost all the work.

If only Ed Miliband hadn't been a Blairite.
If only Labour had stood on a properly left-wing platform in 2015.
If only the voters weren't misled by the mainstream media. 
If only the voters who don't vote came out to vote.

The biggest "if only", however, is the unstated one - if only Tony Blair hadn't won three elections in a row and changed Britain for good. That's why Corbyn and McDonnell went out of their way at the weekend to join the Tories in trashing Labour's economic record, echoing almost exactly some of the distortions that George Osborne is particularly fond of.

An odd way to win an election, you might think. But that's not the point. It's never been the point. The victory that Corbyn wants is over mainstream Labour members - the ones who know that the only alternative to a Tory government is a Labour one - and over the very notion that Labour needs to appeal to the moderate middle-ground of British voters.

...than having their party be elected and govern successfully. By definition, the mass appeal is a demonstration that the ideology of the cult has not been enunciated and applied hard enough.
Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM

THE MIGHTY RUSSIAN WAR MACHINE:

Syrian airbase used by Russia damaged in Isis attack - report (Patrick Winotour, 5/24/16, The Guardian)

An entire Russian helicopter unit based in Syria was wiped out in an Islamic State attack, satellite images appear to suggest.

The attack on 14 May targeted a strategically significant airbase in central Syria used by Russian forces, and again suggests Isis forces are trying to operate outside territory held by the terror group to undermine the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

Vegan restaurateur ordered Dominos before $2M bust (Emily Saul, Carlos Greer and Beckie Strum May 13, 2016, NY Post)

The owner of an upscale vegan eatery that catered to celebrity devotees Alec Baldwin and Woody Harrelson swiped around $2 million from the company to splurge on [....] watches, lavish European vacations and trips to c[*****]s, authorities say.

But how she got caught is the most delicious part of it all: Avowed vegan Sarma Melngailis, 43, caved in and ordered a cheesy Dominos pizza while on the run in a hotel in Tennessee with her husband, sources said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM

THE CLOSER WEPT:

A Severed Head, Two Cops, and the Radical Future of Interrogation (ROBERT KOLKER, 05.24.16, Wired)

The modern style of questioning criminal suspects--the set of techniques practiced fruitlessly by those first detectives in the Medellin case, and familiar to all of us from a thousand police procedurals--is a rusty, stalwart invention that's been around since the days of JFK. It has a proud history: Born during a period of reform, it started out as an enlightened alternative to the bad old ways of policing that preceded it.

Until the mid-1930s, police still widely used the "third degree"--that is, torture--to get suspects to talk. Officers across the country hung suspects out of windows, dunked their heads underwater, and hit them. In 1931 a presidential panel known as the Wickersham Commission called atten­tion to the brutality of the third degree. Then, in 1936, the US Supreme Court effectively outlawed the practice with its ruling in Brown v. Mississippi, a case involving three black men who were beaten and whipped until they confessed.

Police closed ranks at first, but they eventually came around to new approaches. J. Edgar Hoover, for one, was especially keen to rebrand his agents as advanced practitioners of law enforcement science. "Third-degree methods, an ill-trained officer might think, perhaps a severe beating, will force a confession," Hoover said at the time. "But the trained officer, schooled in the latest techniques of crime detection, will think otherwise." Crime labs were developing new methods of solving cases--ballistics, fingerprinting, document examination--and with them came a new, more psychological approach to interrogation.

The most influential nonviolent method of questioning suspects debuted in 1962 with the first edition of Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, by Fred Inbau, a Northwestern University law professor who ran one of the country's first crime labs, and John E. Reid, a former police officer turned polygraphy expert. Now in its fifth printing, the book set the mold for police interrogations in America. Through the 1940s and '50s, Reid had built a reputation as a master interrogator, extracting confessions in over 300 murder cases. He and Inbau likened the interrogator's task to "a hunter stalking his game." An interrogation, they explained, should be designed to persuade a suspect that confessing is the only sensible option; to get confessions, they wrote, police must sweep up suspects in a wave of momentum that they'll find impossible to reverse.

All the major tropes of a traditional police interrogation can be traced back to Reid and Inbau's manual: the claustro­phobic room, the interrogators' outward projection of cer­tainty, the insistence on a theory of the case that assumes the suspect's guilt. (The manual calls this a "theme.") The interrogators bolster that theme with what they charac­terize as incontrovertible evidence, which can include facts drawn from real detective work ("We know you got off work at 5 pm") or details that are completely fabricated ("The polygraph says you did it"). Toward the end, interrogators are encouraged to "minimize" the crime in a consoling sort of way ("He had it coming, didn't he?"). All the while, they cut off all denials until the suspect cracks. Detectives are allowed to use deceit and trickery because, as Inbau and Reid explained, none of these techniques are "apt to induce an innocent person to confess a crime he did not commit."

The manual gave rise to a new archetype: the silver-tongued interrogator--someone who, through intimidation and seduction, can get anyone to admit to anything. No less an authority than the US Supreme Court acknowledged the sway that the method held over suspects; in its 1966 Miranda decision, the court cited the Inbau-Reid training manual as an example of why all suspects should be read their rights.

Over the years, the Reid technique, as it came to be known, became a kind of powerful folk wisdom, internalized by generations of police officers. Even among those who received little formal training, it was passed down from cop to cop. "You would think that at a large organization like the LAPD, a large emphasis would be put on developing interrogation skills for their detectives," says Tim Marcia, reflecting on his own haphazard indoctrination into modern interrogation technique. "To be quite honest, we go to an 80-hour detective school, and probably about four hours is devoted to interrogation."

Earlier in his career, Marcia spent 10 years as one of the original members of the LAPD's cold-case unit. Researching old unsolved cases gave him a flyover view of interrogation tactics through the decades. While styles fluctuated somewhat, the basic outline of the Reid technique remained intact. And the most consistent thing over the years? No matter what detectives did with a suspect in the interro­gation room, they were convinced they were doing it right.

THE TROUBLE WITH modern interrogation technique, as Marcia would learn, is that, despite its scientific pose, it has almost no science to back it up. Reid and Inbau claimed, for instance, that a well-trained investigator could catch suspects lying with 85 percent accuracy; their manual instructs detectives to conduct an initial, nonaccusatory "behavioral analysis interview," in which they should look for physical tells like fidgeting and broken eye contact. But when German forensic psychologist Günter Köhnken actually studied the matter in 1987, he found that trained police officers were no better than the average person at detecting lies. Several subsequent studies have cast doubt on the notion that there are any clear-cut behavioral tells. (Truth tellers often fidget more than liars.) In fact, the more confident police officers are about their judgments, the more likely they are to be wrong.

But the scientific case against police interrogations really began to mount in the early 1990s, when the first DNA-based exonerations started rolling in. According to the Innocence Project, a group dedicated to freeing the wrongfully imprisoned, about a third of the 337 people who've had their convictions overturned by DNA evidence confessed or incriminated themselves falsely. These and other exonera­tions furnished scientists with dozens of known false-confession cases to study, giving rise to a veritable subfield of social psychology and the behavioral sciences. (At least one confession elicited by John Reid himself--in a 1955 murder case--turned out to be inaccurate; the real killer confessed 23 years later.)

Researchers have even broken down these false confession cases into categories. There are "voluntary" false confessions, like the many presumably unstable people who claimed credit for the Lindbergh baby kidnapping in order to get attention. Then there are "compliant," or "coerced," false confessions, in which people are so ground down by an intense interrogation that, out of desperation and naïveté, they think that confessing will be better for them in the long run. The third category, "persuaded," or "internalized," false confessions, may be the most poignant. Here, the interrogator's Reid-style theming is so relentless, the deployment of lies so persuasive, that suspects--often young and impressionable or mentally impaired--end up believing they did it, however fleetingly.

And yet, even in the face of these documented cases, police and prosecutors have resisted admitting that false confessions are even possible. In court, they routinely move to reject expert testimony on the phenomenon by saying it goes against common sense that an innocent person would ever confess to a criminal act. But a wealth of research since the 1990s has shown that false memories are remarkably easy to implant. And in 2015, Julia Shaw, then a psychology PhD candidate in British Columbia, conducted a study that took direct aim at the idea that ordinary, innocent people would never confess to a crime they didn't commit. In fact, she found that people can be made to do it quite reliably.

In just three one-hour sessions, Shaw was able to convince 21 of her 30 college-age subjects that they'd committed a crime when they were around 12 years old--assaulted another child with a weapon, for instance--and had a run-in with the police as a result. She supplied details that were recognizable to the subjects--the location where the assault supposedly happened, who the other child was--drawn from information their parents provided in a questionnaire. Shaw tells me she designed her study to mimic the techniques used in some false-confession cases. "I'm essentially marrying poor interrogation tactics with poor therapeutic tactics," she says. The results were so strong, in fact, that she stopped administering the experiment before she had run through her full sample.

John E. Reid & Associates, a training organization that holds the official copyright on the Reid technique, maintains that problems only arise when cops deviate from the Reid formula. "False confessions are caused by investigators stepping out of bounds," says Joseph Buckley, the organi­zation's president.

While false confessions that send people to prison are the most serious problem with modern police interrogations, they aren't necessarily the most common one. Day to day, these practices may undermine good police work in another way: As a confrontational strategy built for extracting confessions, standard interrogation technique can be an ineffective tool for gathering lots of useful and accurate information. Some suspects end up confessing falsely under the glare, but far more do what Campos-Martinez did: They clam up. They sense all too readily that they're in the presence of "a hunter stalking his game," and they behave accordingly. A number of scholars have called for a wholesale shift from a "confrontational" model of interro­gation to an "investigative" one--one that would redesign interrogations around the best evidence-based approaches to eliciting facts from witnesses and suspects.

Of course, that's easy to say. If police have stuck by their methods, it's partly because, in America at least, they've had nothing truly viable to replace them with. "Up until now, a lot of the work on false confessions has been about social justice," says Christian Meissner, a psychologist at Iowa State University. 1 "What we really lacked in the field was an alternative." Then came the HIG.

In 2010, to make good on a campaign promise that he would end the use of torture in US terror investigations, President Obama announced the formation of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, a joint effort of the FBI, the CIA, and the Pentagon. In place of the waterboarding and coercion that took place at facilities like Abu Ghraib during the Bush years, the HIG was created to conduct noncoercive interrogations. Much of that work is top secret. HIG-trained interrogators, for instance, are said to have questioned would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The public knows nothing about how those interrogations, or the dozen or so others the HIG is said to have conducted, unfolded. Even the specific training methods the HIG employs--and that it has introduced to investigators in the Air Force, Navy, and elsewhere--have never been divulged.

At the same time, however, the HIG has become one of the most powerful funders of public research on interrogations in America. Scholars have used HIG funding, for instance, to make a careful study of law enforcement models from England and Canada, which both abandoned Inbau-Reid-style interrogation tactics long ago as unethical and unreliable. In recent years, Canadian police have been moving toward a technique called the "cognitive interview," a nonconfrontational method that's meant to get the subject narrating as much as possible--no theming or yes-or-no questions. And for more than a decade, the UK has used a similar method known as PEACE, an acronym that stands for Planning and preparation, Engage and explain, obtain an Account, Closure, and Evaluation. Police in England aren't even permitted to lie to suspects. A HIG-funded metastudy published in 2014 indicates that PEACE is more effective at producing true confessions and protecting against false ones than an accusatory approach.

In all, the HIG has funded some 60 studies in psychology and the behavioral sciences at universities around the world, digging into what works and what doesn't in interrogations. Some have focused on how to "prime" witnesses--that is, how to create environ­ments that put people in an open, talkative frame of mind. They've learned that people tend to divulge more information when sitting in a spacious room with windows (the very opposite of what the old Inbau-Reid model recommends) and that holding a warm beverage can actually create positive impressions of the people around you.

Other researchers have dabbled in lie detection, but in a way that bears little resemblance to Reid's emphasis on polygraph results and telltale fidgeting. HIG research is highly influenced by the work of UK-based researcher Aldert Vrij, who studies the "cognitive load" that lying puts on the brain. "Truth tellers ultimately will be able to give you far more detail that you can go and check," says Steven Kleinman, a veteran military interrogator who has worked with the HIG. "No matter how good the cover story is, it's not going to be as rich as a real-life story." Liars, in other words, have to work much harder to invent and keep track of details. One way researchers have found to bring this strain and effort to the surface is to ask witnesses to tell their stories in reverse chronological order: Liars have a much harder time with it.

But the central finding running through much of HIG's research is this: If you want accurate information, be as non-accusatorial as possible--the HIG term is "rapport-building." This may sound like coddling, but it's a means to an end. The more suspects say, the more that can be checked against the record. The whole posture of the interrogation--or interview, as the HIG prefers to call it--is geared not toward the extraction of a confession but toward the pursuit of information.





Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM

NORWEGIAN WOULDN'T:

A Norwegian view: are things really so bad outside the EU? (ELLEN ENGELSTAD 19 May 2016, OpenDemocracy)

When the British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen that 'Outside the EU we would have no say, this is something Norway has experienced', an answer from the Norwegian Labour Party deputy leader Trond Giske came quickly. Talking to the newspaper Nationen Mr Giske replied to Corbyn: "I don't think 'it can be as bad as Norway' really works to scare people off. Norway is regularly announced the world's best country to live in. We have had the lowest level of unemployment in Europe throughout the financial crisis. We have one of the strongest welfare systems, the least inequality, the highest safety and the most trust, in addition to peace and wealth. I mean: How bad can it get? What does Corbyn fear?"

Seen from Norway, this is a key question. Two times have we said no to EU-membership in a popular vote, in 1972 and 1994, and after each time the sun has just kept on shining even more on our glistening fjords. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST NOW:

The gene's still selfish: Dawkins' famous idea turns 40 (Jonathan Webb, 5/24/16, BBC News)

"I don't know whether you know the classic book by D'Arcy Thompson, On Growth and Form? He showed that all mollusc shells are a tube, which is enlarging as it coils around. You only need three numbers to specify a mollusc shell."

Those three numbers can be plotted inside a cube, Prof Dawkins explains. "Evolution is then just a walk through this cube of all possible shells."

In a computerised game he wrote in 1996, people could construct their own such walk by choosing for themselves which offspring would "breed" in successive generations of shells.

This game has now been resurrected online to mark the 20th anniversary of the book it arose from, Climbing Mount Improbable.

Alongside the shell game sits an ancestral explanatory exercise: the biomorphs. These were first programmed 10 years earlier, when Dawkins wrote The Blind Watchmaker. He clearly remembers getting lost in the work.

"When I discovered that I could actually start getting something that looked like an insect, I got really obsessed with the idea of breeding insects."

As the biomorphs grow from simple, branching stick-shrubs into more elaborate and occasionally familiar shapes, they make an important point - and one that is better grasped by being involved than by hearing it explained.

"You get much more of an idea of what it's like to breed dogs from wolves, or to breed cauliflower from wild cabbage," Prof Dawkins says, clearly enjoying the sight of the spindly shapes evolving again on his screen.

It was bad enough when Mayr disposed of the idea of species, but when Dawkins declared in favor of intelligent design the jig was up.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM

GREATEST WAR EVER:

U.S.-backed Syrian rebel alliance begins offensive to seize territory north of Raqqa: spokesman (Reuters, 5/24/16)

An alliance of Kurdish-led armed groups fighting Islamic State in northern Syria said they had launched an offensive on Tuesday to seize countryside north of the militants' de facto capital Raqqa, their spokesman said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM

BETTER ANGELS:

New Poll Shows Majority of Americans Believe U.S. Must Do More for Refugees (Amnesty USA, 5/18/16)

[T]he survey found:

The vast majority of people in the U.S. (71%) would let refugees into the country. 15% of Americans are willing to make refugees welcome in their own homes. On top of that, another 27% said they would accept refugees into their neighborhood.

73% of Americans said people should be able to take refuge in other countries to escape war and persecution.

63% of Americans said the U.S. government should do more to help refugees.

Just 22% of Americans said the U.S. should refuse refugees entry into the country.

The public sentiment is in direct conflict with policies being set or advocated for by officials and public figures in the United States.

Running a campaign on hatred of them is, literally, unAmerican.
Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM

ANTI-SEMITISM IS THE UR-RACISM:

Republican Jewish Coalition decries 'anti-Semitic invective' in presidential race (JTA, 5/24/16) 

The Republican Jewish Coalition condemned the "troubling increase of anti-Semitic invective" aimed at journalists covering the presidential campaigns, but without singling out the two most widely reported incidents, both involving supporters of presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

You can't run a racist campaign and not unleash it.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM

AESTHETICS, NOT ECONOMICS:

Fed Shouldn't Kid Itself on Rate Risk, Says $200 Billion Manager (Emma Orr and  Katherine Chiglinsky, May 23, 2016, Bloomberg)

Federal Reserve policy makers must appreciate the danger that higher interest rates could hurt the U.S. economy by strengthening the dollar and pressuring global growth, said Krishna Memani, chief investment officer of OppenheimerFunds Inc.

"That reaction is going to be negative," he said Monday in a Bloomberg Television interview. "The Fed can't kid itself on that." [...]

"It's a risky move, but they're at a better place this time around than they were last year," Memani said. "The trick for them is to prove to the market that this is not a sustained rate rise."

So the key is to convince us that they recognize they're making a mistake in economic terms.

May 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM

HE'S NOT A DEMOCRAT:

Sanders Campaigns Against The Democrats (Saif Alnuweiri, May 23, 2016, National Memo)

"Bernie made his point," said an unnamed Colorado Democrat to Politico. "It's time to bring the party back together. The longer he waits, the more damage he does. The question is whether or not he cares. The rest of us do."

Sanders knows that, which is why he has begun focus on committee assignments and other minutiae at the Democratic National Convention in July. But that hasn't stopped him from focusing fire on his rival.

"We need a campaign, an election, coming up which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don't want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils," he said on ABC's This Week on Sunday, describing the low favorability ratings both Clinton and Donald Trump face going into a presidential election match up.

Comments like that have signaled Sanders' increasing investment in a divided Democratic Party as the primary calendar runs down to its last six contests. "The 'burn it down' attitude, the upping the ante," wrote Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo, "seems to be coming from Sanders himself. Right from the top." While blame was initially cast on Jeff Weaver, Sanders' fiery campaign manager, commentators started placing blame more directly on Sanders himself after his statement following the supposed scuffles that took place in the Nevada Democratic convention -- Sanders placed most of the blame for his delegate's rowdiness on "Democratic leadership us[ing] its power to prevent a fair and transparent process from taking place."

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM

THEY GET THE JOB DONE:

The Rooms Where It Happened : Review of Hamilton: An American Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Richard Rodgers Theatre, New York City) and Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (ALISON L. LACROIX, New Rambler)


To watch Hamilton is to experience a total work of art - a Gesamtkunstwerk, in which different forms are combined into a single unified whole. The production brings together a staggeringly wide array of musical styles, including hip-hop, ragtime, Broadway musical theatre, jazz, and baroque harpsichord. The tableau unfolds dynamically - actors are perpetually in motion; an ensemble of dancers surrounds the main characters with intricate, sharp choreography; at various points in the show, two turntables revolve, often in opposite directions, turning the singing actors and placing them in ever-changing speed-tableaux. The costumes manage to be elegant and period appropriate while also avoiding caricature. There are no wigs, except for one that accompanies the occasional warble from the peruked George III. 

But the most astonishing artistic weapon that Hamilton unleashes is the power - in both force and quantity - of its words. The two-and-a-half-hour show comprises 20,000 words, nearly all of them delivered in some form of song or rap. The show is "sung-through," a phrase whose new frequency among the general public is yet another consequence of Hamilton-mania. The fastest song in the show, "Guns and Ships," is reported to clock in at a rate of 6.3 words per second - most of them fired in French-accented rap cadences by the Marquis de Lafayette (Daveed Diggs). Quite simply, the audience is fusilladed with words. On and on they come; one tries in giddy vain to remember the last set long enough to savor them before the next wave arrives. Indeed, this is one reason that consultation of the printed lyrics is necessary: because the ear is incapable of processing the words as they hurtle forth. Happily, the lyrics are included in the booklet accompanying the original cast recording, and - with photographs and extensive annotations - in Hamilton: The Revolution.

One such moment comes in "Cabinet Battle #1," in which Hamilton (Miranda), Thomas Jefferson (Diggs again), George Washington (Christopher Jackson), and James Madison (Okieriete Onaodowan) debate Treasury Secretary Hamilton's proposal for the federal government to assume the states' wartime debts. In response to the russet-velvet-clad Jefferson's preening self-citation of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" ("These are wise words, enterprising men quote 'em/Don't act surprised, you guys, cuz I wrote 'em"), Hamilton bursts forth:

Thomas. That was a real nice declaration

Welcome to the present, we're running a real nation

Would you like to join us, or stay mellow

Doin' whatever the hell it is you do in Monticello?

If we assume the debts, the union gets

A new line of credit, a financial diuretic.

How do you not get it? If we're aggressive and competitive

The union gets a boost. You'd rather give it a sedative?

The stakes of late-eighteenth-century debates about debt assumption, the federal union, and a national bank are thus conveyed within the context of a post-millennial rap battle. We care how this clash will turn out; we want to know who will win - even though we already know, as we knew before we heard the first bars of music: Hamilton's financial system will ultimately be established; the federal government will assume the states' debts; and the Union will become more robust and centralized. The genius of Miranda's words, however, is that they make us forget that we know how it will all end. The national bank, the strong judiciary, the encounter at Weehawken - we already know. And yet we watch and listen as though we don't. Because while we know what happened to the faces on the currency and the portraits in the museum, we don't know how it will all unfold for these particular people whom we are watching and listening to.

The words are the components of the barrage issuing from Miranda and his fellow performers on stage. But the words are more than just a medium. In the world of the show, they are also the impetus behind those volleys, for Hamilton is above all about the power of words, both the purposeful and the uncontrolled, to shape individuals' destinies. We see the young Hamilton propelling himself out of the raw Caribbean periphery of the British Empire to New York City and a scholarship at King's College (the predecessor of Columbia University). As Madison describes it in the first song, "Alexander Hamilton,"

Then a hurricane came, and devastation reigned,

Our man saw his future drip, dripping down the drain,

Put a pencil to his temple, connected it to his brain,

And he wrote his first refrain, a testament to his pain.

Twenty-two songs (or, in actual historical time, fifteen years) later, in "Non-Stop," the final number of Act I, we see the mature Hamilton, clad in a gleaming bottle-green silk suit, scribbling with a quill pen atop an off-kilter wooden plan held by eight ensemble members in buff waistcoats and breeches. The scene is Hamilton at work on his towering fifty-one Federalist essays, as we are told by narrator Aaron Burr in tones of mixed awe and horror. Burr is typically played by Leslie Odom, Jr., but Odom's understudy Austin Smith gave such an outstanding performance in the show that I saw that I did not realize until days later that I had not seen the original Burr. Such is the formidable depth of the Hamilton cast. While Hamilton feverishly writes, the chorus sings with urgent speed:

How do you write like you're

Running out of time?

Write day and night like you're

Running out of time?

How do you write like tomorrow won't arrive?

How do you write like you need it to survive?

How do you write ev'ry second you're alive?

Ev'ry second you're alive? Ev'ry second you're alive?

Earlier in the same song, Hamilton chants with childlike glee, "I was chosen for the Constitutional Convention!" The moment is an all-too-rare popular culture triumph for constitutional law professors.  

Federalist 78 is one of the earliest theorizations of American judicial review - a practice that had existed under the British Empire, that was not specifically named in the Constitution itself, and that was extended in the early nineteenth century by the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall. Some scholars posit that Federalist 78 was essentially a restatement, albeit with Hamiltonian flourishes, of a preexisting colonial belief in popular sovereignty.  

But Miranda is depicting something more than just codification of prior practice here, and this image seems historically apt. Who better than a "bastard brat of a Scots pedlar," to borrow John Adams's epithet, to draft the fundamental structural justification for federal judicial authority? Federalist 78 married the divided authority characteristic of federal structures dating back to the seventeenth-century Anglo-Scottish union of crowns with the novel institution that Article III of the Constitution called "the judicial power of the United States." As Hamilton wrote in Federalist 78, "No legislative act . . . contrary to the constitution can be valid." Rather, he argued, judges "ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental." Popular sovereignty was a part of the story, to be sure. But what Federalist 78 invoked was something new: the Constitution as both a source of authority for governing, and as the governing power itself.  



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