Wednesday, February 07, 2007

News of the Day, Tuesday, February 6, 2007

  • Great question in this headline: Who Watches the Watchers in Surveillance Society. Tracks the surveillance camera-ization of Britain and the US and the growing corporate interest in and selling of these systems. (“Intelligent video” is predicted to have sales growth from $60 m. to $400 m. in the next 5 years.) Focuses here on Chicago and the emergency operations chief there who makes great claims for its contributions to public safety. The article does two really great things, though. One, it lets the EO chief spout about all the good news from these systems, then does this: “He said cameras contributed to a drop in violent crime in the city of Chicago in recent years, a drop that is widely attributed to improved police work in countering gangs and street-corner drug dealing. At the same time, gang activity has surged in some Chicago suburbs.” And this: “The city’s prosecutors said they rarely use video evidence in court from the cameras . . . .” Two, it (gasp) cites studies of effectiveness: “. . . a study [in Britain] showed that male surveillance workers sometimes ogled women on their screens, while others focused on minorities exclusively.” And, “. . . privacy experts also note another British study, from 2002, which said surveillance cameras did not lower overall crime rates, and merely pushes crime elsewhere.” Wonder if those items made the corporate promotional material. Doubt they will make the lobbyists’ presentations as the “surveillance society” gets hyped to legislators even more here. So it’s up to us, isn’t it?
  • One story doing a great job of informing readers. One story overblowing the threat of marijuana as addictive, with this headline completely opposite what the story itself eventually admits: Caution: Marijuana may not be lesser evil. Now listen. I’ve never toked in my life. First-hand smoke of no kind has ever crossed my lips. Don’t want it, don’t need it, aggravated at people who do. All I’m asking for is rational and equal treatment in our policy of drugs of equal effect. Here are a couple of quotes that highlight the problem with the story: "Is marijuana a gateway drug? That question has been debated since the time I was in college in the 1960s and is still being debated today," says Harvard University psychiatrist Harrison Pope, director of the Biological Psychiatry Laboratory at Boston's McLean Hospital. "There's just no way scientifically to end that argument one way or the other." And, His research found the most common symptom of marijuana withdrawal was irritability, followed by trouble sleeping and loss of appetite. Symptoms began to subside after a week and disappeared by the end of two weeks."We've had some people in our study who reported quite a lot of craving. They were quite miserable not being allowed to smoke marijuana," Pope says, although "certainly, one does not see craving even remotely to the degree you would … with heroin or alcohol or cocaine." Catch that? Withdrawal over in a week or so, not remotely like . . . ALCOHOL. If marijuana is not the “lesser evil,” what is it “greater” than? Plus, where is any discussion of that other inhalable drug, you know, that nicotine thing, that KILLS tens of thousands of people a year here? It’s this kind of stupid reporting that feeds the fog in which we adopt our drug policies in this country. You just wonder what Mr. Spock would have thought if he’d landed in this particular century. Meanwhile, here’s a story the reporter might have benefited from: Teens, adults unaware smoking raises blindness risk. And while the media see drugs as the big problem, you wanna guess what parents see? Well, US parents see media, not sex, as top worry: study. They don’t see drugs as bad as media, either. But we know parents aren't as smart as reporters or government officials who call them in to put out promotional pieces. (BTW, did you know meth use has likely peaked? You didn't? I wonder why . . . .)
  • Really nice framing by OK’s second-term governor in his inaugural address, calling for abandonment of “one-size-fits-all” crime policy. And more good framing over at Think Outside the Cage where we see this post on the declining educational opportunities occurring as corrections surpasses higher ed in state spending citing the “War on Education.”
  • Good story on the costs of enforcing these sex offender restrictions from school “safe zones” for law enforcement and DAs in IA, complete with dollars and personnel necessary and another plea to do something smarter like banning them from school property, which is much easier to get done.
  • From Neuroethics & Law, we hear of a neuroethics conference at the Chicago-Kent College of Law on: "The Spotless Mind? Policy, Ethics & the Future of Human Intelligence." Emerging technologies in the areas of neuro-enhancement and artificial intelligence promise to drastically alter: our ability to augment human intellectual and sensory capacity; the role of machines; and how we connect, communicate, and share information. But, will such changes bring about the panacea promised by their proponents, or will they be akin to opening Pandora's Box? The conference runs all day on February 16th, 2007 at the National Press Club.
  • Finally, more states are dumping suspect lineups as the evidence piles up that they lead to false convictions. Here are two great quotes from the article: More than two decades ago, a sexual-assault victim from Sandy Springs, Ga., pointed to a picture of her attacker in a photo lineup.
    "From zero to 100 percent, how sure are you?" a detective asked.
    "I'm 120 percent sure," the woman said, as stated in court testimony.It now appears that she was 100 percent wrong, according to the Fulton County district attorney. The result of DNA testing led to the release of Willie "Pete" Williams on Jan. 23 after nearly 22 years in a south Georgia prison for a crime he did not commit.
    And, "'We are all human,' Williams said after his release, as he forgave the witness for the mistake. Yeah, those guys we put in prison. They're the only bad guys.

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