Taglaw

Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

iRobot security robot

New from me at Wired:

Automation is also framed as a way to make law enforcement more efficient. A red light camera can catch a lot more violations than a human can.

The rub is that extreme efficiency isn’t necessarily good thing. That’s what a group of researchers argue in a paper presented earlier this year at a conference on robot law in Miami. They go so far as to argue that inefficiency should be preserved, even increased, as we move to automated law enforcement.

That may sound counter-intuitive, but in the end, it makes good sense. Woodrow Hartzog, an assistant professor at Samford University’s Cumberland School of law and co-author of the paper, tells WIRED that, in some cases, making law enforcement less efficient just means putting humans back in the loop, allowing room for “inefficient” human judgments like mercy and compassion. “A robot can’t forgive certain infractions that are generally accepted,” he says.

Full Story: Wired: Why Robocops Need to be Less Efficient Than Human Coaps

Mindful Cyborgs talk with Kate Darling About Legal Rights for Robots

This week Chris Dancy and I talk with MIT Media Lab researcher Kate Darling about the case for legal protections for robots.

Download and Show Notes: Mindful Cyborgs: Emoji-ing Robots Seek to Fathom Their Origin

Torture In U.S. Prisons: The Longest Hunger Strike

Ann Neumann writes about William Coleman, a U.S. prisoner who has been on a hunger strike for the past five years:

There are two places in the U.S. where you can be fed against your will: a Catholic hospital and a prison.

Staff turned off the video camera typically used to record medical procedures. They strapped Coleman down at “four points” with seatbelt-like “therapeutic” restraints. Edward Blanchette, the internist and prison medical director at the time, pushed a thick, flexible tube up Coleman’s right nostril. Rubber scraped against cartilage and bone and drew blood. Coleman howled. As the tube snaked into his throat, it kinked, bringing the force of insertion onto the sharp edges of the bent tube. They thought he was resisting so they secured a wide mesh strap over his shoulders to keep him from moving. A nurse held his head. Blanchette finally realized that the tube had kinked and pulled it back out. He pushed a second tube up Coleman’s nose, down his throat, and into his stomach. Blanchette filled the tube with vanilla Ensure. Coleman’s nose bled. He gagged constantly against the tube. He puked. As they led him back to his cell, the cuffs of Coleman’s gray sweatshirt were soaked with snot, saliva, vomit, and blood.

“I have been tortured,” he would say later. And it was enough to make Coleman start drinking fluids again. For a while. When he stopped a few months later, the prison force-fed him again, and twelve more times over the next two years. By last year they could no longer use Coleman’s right nostril. A broken nose in his youth and repeated insertion of the tube have made it too sensitive.

Full Story: Guernica: The Longest Hunger Strike

See also: America’s Most Common Torture: Solitary Confinement

Anti-Doping In Sports: The New Front In The War On Drugs

Brian Alexander writes:

If you’re like most Americans, you watched the Tour de France for about five minutes, and cheered when Armstrong won. You know a little about his cancer charity, and that he dated a pop star. And that’s about the extent of emotional energy you’ve expended. Since I’ve written a lot about doping in sports – and delved into how anti-doping agencies like the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) conduct business – I’ve expended a lot more energy on your behalf.

So here’s the thing you need to know: The USADA takedown of Armstrong matters, and it could effect everybody. Because it will enhance the power and reach of a private, non-profit business that has managed to harness the power of the federal government in what’s quickly becoming a brand new war on drugs … with all the same pitfalls brought to you by the first war on drugs. [...]

In an eerie echo of the tactics used by the American House Un-American Activities Committee during the Red Scare days, the Australian agency issued a call this past November “to anyone involved with, or has information about, doping activity in the sport of cycling to come forward and talk before someone else accuses them of doping.” If you talk first, you can get credit for snitching. If you wait, well, who knows what somebody else might say about you?

Wired Playbook: Why Lance Armstrong’s Confession Should Make You Worry

See also: Hacking your body: Lance Armstrong and the science of doping

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS “Frontline,” in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.

Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.

But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

ProPublica: No Forensic Background? No Problem

Remember as you read this that people are being put to death, or put in prison for decades, because of the testimony of forensic experts.

See also:

This post rounds up a lot of past coverage of Hayne and the situation in Mississippi.

Combine bad forensics with the psychology of false confessions and what do you get? A recipe for sending innocent people to prison.

SubGenius Custody Battle Finally Over, but Reverend Magdalen is Still Banned From Keeping SubGenius Materials in Her Home

I’m a little late in reporting this, but here’s some good news:

The final deadline of September 22, 2010 came and went without any last-minute attempts by Reverend Magdalen’s former boyfriend to appeal the custody decision. This means that the custody case is now officially CLOSED IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. Any further attempts to disrupt Magdalen’s relationship with her son would have to be filed in the state of Georgia. This means that he would most likely have to SPEND MONEY to do so.

In other words: After four years of hell and over $100,000 in costs to her, IT’S OVER. And the final result is an anticlimax: Magdalen, her husband, and her ex-boyfriend are back to the status quo. That, plus she is still the only SubGenius officially banned from keeping SubGenius materials in her home, where her innocent son might accidentally come across them and become corrupted into the corrupt, obscene, decadent SubGenius cult that got his Mom into trouble in the first place.

The High Weirdness Project: Reverend Magdalen

(Thanks Trevor)

I’m very saddened, however, that Magdalen is still banned from possessing SubGenius materials in her own home. That can’t possibly constitutional.

Fortress Iceland? Probably Not.

iceland

Throwing some cold water on the expectations Iceland as journalism haven:

, the problem is that whatever Iceland does, it can’t change the 500-pound gorilla of international media law: the principle that publication happens at the point of download, not the point of upload. The poster child case for this principle is Dow Jones & Co., Inc. v. Gutnick, a case that reached the High Court of Australia in 2002. In that case, Gutnick sued Barron’s Online for publishing an allegedly defamatory article about him, and despite the fact that no one in Australia other than Gutnick’s lawyers actually read the offending article, the judges unanimously ruled that Australian laws applied, and thus Dow Jones (publisher of Barron’s Online) was liable to Gutnick. At least at the time, the High Court of Australia was the highest court worldwide to hear a case involving this issue, and for better or worse, its ruling has carried the day in similar cases around the world since. [...]

With the Gutnick ruling setting the current paradigm for international jurisdiction, the IMMI is not nearly the journalistic fortress it’s meant to be. Plaintiffs will still be able to sue in a libel-friendly jurisdiction (like London, for example) and thereby circumvent all the protections the IMMI is meant to offer. To be sure, if the publisher and his assets are entirely within Icelandic jurisdiction, the plaintiff may not be able to do much about the publication.

Read More – Citizen Media Law: Fortress Iceland? Probably Not.

(via Jay Rosen)

Self-help guru James Arthur Ray in court on manslaughter charges

james ray mug shot

The Secret contributor James Arthur Ray has been arrested after the deaths of 3 people at a $9,000+ “purification ceremony”:

Self-help guru James Arthur Ray says it was all a tragic accident when his followers began collapsing one by one in a sweat lodge at his retreat, with three of them dying. As unfortunate as the ordeal was, he says the participants knew about the risks the ceremony presented.

Prosecutors say it’s a blatant case of manslaughter by a man who recklessly crammed dozens of people in a 400-square-foot sweat lodge and chided them for wanting to leave, even as people were vomiting, getting burned by hot rocks and lying lifeless on the ground.

The two sides will be on display in coming months now that prosecutors have charged Ray with manslaughter in a case that could send him to prison for more than 35 years. The 52-year-old Ray said nothing during his first court appearance Thursday, and his lawyer entered a not guilty plea.

Business Week: Self-help guru in court on manslaughter charges

It’s a sad but interesting case. Ray is obviously an asshole, but is he also a murderer? If so, what about the people in the sweat lodge who didn’t die or pass-out? Are they also liable?

Glenn Greenwald: What the Supreme Court got right

supreme court

There’s been much bathos since yesterday’s Supreme Court decision regarding restrictions on political speech. Greenwald is the voice of reason here:

The Supreme Court yesterday, in a 5-4 decision, declared unconstitutional (on First Amendment grounds) campaign finance regulations which restrict the ability of corporations and unions to use funds from their general treasury for “electioneering” purposes. The case, Citizens United v. FEC, presents some very difficult free speech questions, and I’m deeply ambivalent about the court’s ruling. There are several dubious aspects of the majority’s opinion (principally its decision to invalidate the entire campaign finance scheme rather than exercising “judicial restraint” through a narrower holding). Beyond that, I believe that corporate influence over our political process is easily one of the top sicknesses afflicting our political culture. But there are also very real First Amendment interests implicated by laws which bar entities from spending money to express political viewpoints. [...]

All of the hand-wringing sounds to me like someone expressing serious worry that a new law in North Korea will make the country more tyrannical. There’s not much room for our corporatist political system to get more corporatist. Does anyone believe that the ability of corporations to influence our political process was meaningfully limited before yesterday’s issuance of this ruling?

Glenn Greenwald: What the Supreme Court got right

Read the whole thing, including the updates at the end.

Atheists Sue Catholic Church

Charging that the Catholic Church should lose its tax-exempt status, a consortium of atheists and Catholic activists filed two lawsuits against Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg) and the Catholic Diocese over their role in producing a recorded message sent to Williamsburg’s registered voters less than a week before they went to the polls.

Led by NYC Atheists President Kenneth Bronstein and New Jersey-based priest abuse activist Reverend Robert Hoatson, the suits allege that DiMarzio violated Internal Revenue Service laws by recording a political message sent to voters in a hotly contested City Council election, which could cost the Church privileges enjoyed by its nonprofit status.

“This is the first step to accomplish what we want to accomplish: get the Church out of politics,” said John Aretakis, a spokesperson for the group.

The lawsuit arises from reaction to a series of pre-recorded messages that Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio made on October 28, to voters in the city’s 34th Council District, thanking Lopez for his work advocating for the Catholic Church during the past year and urging voters to support his choices in the election.

NY Post:

(via Religion News)

But if they lost their tax exempt status, wouldn’t they be more likely to participate in politics? But at least they wouldn’t be tax exempt while doing it.

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