Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Why Prisons Are Called Universities of Crime

Good Day World!

In American prisons, and others throughout the world, terrorists are being breed like cockroaches.

"Prisons have been called universities of crime for a long time," said Mark Hamm, professor of criminology at Indiana State University and author of "The Spectacular Few: Prisoner Radicalization and the Evolving Terrorist Threat."

"That idea is simply being applied to terrorism so prisons might become universities of radicalization, and in some cases that has proven to be true."

They include:

  • Richard Reid, the would-be American Airlines "shoe bomber" from 2001, converted to Islam while in Britain's Feltham young offenders' institution.
  • Muktar Ibrahim, who attempted a second London transit attack in 2005, became radicalized in the same facility.
  • Spanish drug dealer Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras and Moroccan petty criminal Jamal Ahmidan were among those recruited by an al Qaeda-linked cell while serving sentences in Spain's Topas prison, later becoming co-conspirators in the 2004 Madrid train bombing.

The risk that jails could breed a fresh generation of radicals should sound alarm bells in the U.S., which has the world's largest prison population and the second-largest per capita. "We are the world's jailors," Hamm said.

There have been UImage: Abu Hamza in 2003.S. cases, including the 2005 discovery of Jam'iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh, an Islamist group that robbed southern California gas stations with the aim of funding terrorist operations.

(Photo:Abu Hamza)

At southeast London's Belmarsh prison — which once housed hook-handed hate preacher Abu Hamza, who was jailed for life in the U.S.earlier this month — warders told an official House of Commons inquiry into radicalization [PDF link] that extremist views were "widely disseminated" among inmates but they struggled to monitor how far such ideas were adopted.

"Usually a tightly-knit, clandestine network of inmates with a charismatic leader begins to prosthelytize … getting young, more impressionable, more vulnerable inmates into more extremist ideology," Hamm said.

"But that network needs to be in place. In the case of the Madrid train bombing you can trace the influence back to one prison and one cell block and the social network between inmates."

Complicating the picture, some new inmates join religiously-affiliated networks for their own protection as they navigate the fearsome prison gang scene, coloring conventional faiths with an undercurrent of violence.

"The whole thing is built on a prison gang model … not only for Islamic groups, but also white supremacists," Hamm said. "In the U.S. we have the phenomenon of prison Islam, which is nothing to do with Islam in the real world.

It's a jailhouse Islam that mixes certain tenets of Salafist thought with American Islam in the Malcolm X tradition then it blends those with symbolism and the internal cohesion of street gangs into a very complex mix."

"You can cut the head off the snake, move the leader into another institution or you can just try to micro-manage the problem," Hamm said.

"In a prison with 3,000 convicts you've first of all got to identify the problem: How many are at risk? Who's doing it? What is the method?"

The history of Islamist radicalization in prisons stretches back more than half a century — jihadist icon Sayyid Qutb wrote extremist texts while jailed in Egypt in the 1950s [PDF link] — but the response stepped up only after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks put the issue onto the global agenda. (source)

It’s pretty clear to me that if we don’t shut down the terrorists cells in prisons, civilization – as we know it now – will cease to function.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Find out how much money big business spends to win your mind

Good Day World!

Forget lobbying.

When Washington, D.C.’s biggest trade associations want to wield influence, they often put far more of their money into advertising and public relations, according to a new Center for Public Integrity investigation.

Take, for example, the American Petroleum Institute. The oil and gas industry trade group spent more than $7 million lobbying federal officials in 2012. But that sum was dwarfed by the $85.5 million it paid to four public relations and advertising firms to, in effect, lobby the American public — including $51.9 million just to global PR giant Edelman.

From 2008 through 2012, annual tax filings show, the API paid Edelman a staggering $327.4 million for advertising and public relations services, more than any other contractor. 

It’s been well-publicized how much industry spends on lobbying the government, but little is known about how much money goes toward influencing the public. In an effort to find out more,Center for Public Integrity reporters examined the tax returns for trade associations that spent more than $1 million on lobbying in 2012. The IRS requires the groups to report their top five contractors.

Of $3.4 billion in contracts reported by the 144 trade groups from 2008 through 2012, more than $1.2 billion, or 37 percent, went toward advertising, public relations and marketing services, more than any other category. The second-highest total, $682.2 million, or 20 percent of the total, was directed toward legal, lobbying and government affairs.

By industry sector, the biggest clients of PR, marketing and ad services were energy and natural resources associations. (Center for Public Integrity)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, January 26, 2015

The First Fax Machine & Jimmy Stewart

Jimmy Stewart

Good Day World!

I remember watching a classic movie with Jimmy Stewart; it was a movie from the late forties. Sadly I can’t remember the name.

But in the movie he needed a document faxed to him,or the man he was defending, was going to fry in the electric chair. Well, they did not use the term “fax” but it was the same function.

And I remember thinking how was that possible? Wasn’t the Fax Machine widely used in the 70’s and invented shortly before that?

The story goes that a priest in Florence, who was too radical for the church, and because of his radical views was forced to live in exile is responsible for the invention of the fax machine in the year 1857!

Giovanni Caselli appeared to be strange fellow to his neighbors, always tinkering with things, and his home was full of junk. The neighbors thought, they had a loony living amongst them for sure.

Giovanni Caselli

Not only was Caselli a priest, but he was also a scientist and the telegraph was the hot technology of the day. Caselli wondered if it were possible to send pictures over the telegraph wires.

The world thought he truly had lost his mind, but that did not stop Caselli from trying to do what he thought was possible.

In 1857 and over the course of six years Casselli perfected what he called the “Pantelegraph.” It was the very first fax machine for the world! It stood six feet tall and made up of swinging pendulums, batteries and wires.

The way the Pantelegraph worked was by passing an electrical current through an image, the signal was sent to a receiver that translated it onto a piece of treated paper.

The Emperor of France, Napoleon III was so awe-struck with this invention that he authorized its use on French telegraph lines. By 1868 the Pantelegraph was transmitting 110 faxes per hour! But the world was not quite ready for such an invention. It was seen as a novelty, not really practical, or a necessity.

The "Pantelegraph."

Then came the invasion of France by the Prussians in 1870 and the service was interrupted, and never to resume again. It would be another hundred years before the modern fax machine became ubiquitous.

So back to my movie with Jimmy Stewart, although the fax machine was not widely used until the 70’s, there were other fax machines that followed Caselli’s.

It turns out that RCA came up with “Radio Facsimile,” in the 1924; this one is actually the forerunner of the modern day fax machines we use today. So, now I understand how Jimmy was able to get that fax in that movie in the 40’s.

So when your fax machine rings and you see that image faxed from a remote part of the world to your desk, thank Giovanni Caselli who in 1857 never stopped trying until he got it to work. We can learn a lot from a person like that. (This article originally appeared in History Confidential)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Great news for coffee drinkers – check it out!

Good Day World!

I’ve got great news for the coffee crowd; now you can drink coffee before you go to bed and it won’t keep you up. That means you can drink coffee whenever you want.

Imagine brewing coffee as a nightcap. That’s what Deland Jessop says he and his wife have begun to do with Counting Sheep Coffee—a new product designed to allow coffee lovers to drink a cup before bed without being kept awake for hours.

When his wife complained that she couldn’t enjoy coffee after 3 p.m., Jessop turned his home into a makeshift lab to search for a possible solution. After experimenting with a variety of herbs and supplements, he says he stumbled upon valerian—a plant that has been used as a mild sedative in Europe for centuries. He mixed it with decaf to mask the pungent smell, and sleep coffee was born.

Jessop notes that Counting Sheep Coffee is a food product, not a drug to help with sleep. Valerian is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food ingredient.

Experts don’t know exactly why the plant such a potent sleep-inducer, but there’s little known risk of side effects (other than the obvious drowsiness), says University of California San Francisco associate professor Stephen Bent.

“In the studies that have been done, it’s been show to be safe,” he says. “It has a long traditional history of being used to induce sleep.”

The product first appeared at Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2013, and is now sold in several regional supermarkets. (source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Athletes training with pot – why not?

Good Day World!

Imagine the following training session using marijuana for athletes:

Okay class, are you ready to get high?

Toke up! That’s it! Big deep breaths. Exhale. Inhale.”

Sound too crazy to be true?  

Robin Williams once joked, "the only way it's (marijuana) a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big f---ing  Hershey bar at the end of the run," right?

Believe it or not, marijuana is actually helping some people perform better at certain sports. There are people that say training while high has helped them unlock new performance gains.

In November, Men's Journal interviewed elite triathlete Clifford Drusinsky, a Colorado gym owner who also leads training sessions fueled by marijuana edibles.

"Marijuana relaxes me and allows me to go into a controlled, meditational place," Drusinsky told Men's Journal. "When I get high, I train smarter and focus on form."

Outside Magazine correspondent Gordy Megroz wrote in the February issue of that magazine that while he has never been much of a pot smoker, he heard enough close friends — especially skiers — say that getting high helped their performance that he decided to give it a shot.

In the World Anti-Doping Association's current ban on competing while stoned, the organization cites studies that show marijuana can decrease anxiety and increase airflow to the lungs by acting as a bronchodilator, something that decreases resistance in the airways. (source)

There isn't much research available yet on how pot affects performance. As long as marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Agency, it's incredibly difficult for researchers to study its effects.

Meanwhile it should be interesting hearing some more stories about athletes training with pot. Who would have thought?

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Friday, January 23, 2015

How Fat, Big Boobs, and Propriety gave us The Stethoscope

First stethoscope

Good Day World!

Before there were X-Rays, MRI’s, Sonograms
and Cat Scans, doctors had no way of knowing what was happening inside a human body.

All they had to go on was the external signs such as skin pigmentation, urine, feces and all that fun stuff. Gross, I know.

Another method doctors used to learn what was happening inside a patient’s body was placing their ear directly in contact with the body.

With their ear they were able to listen to the Heart, lungs and abdominal areas.

Doctors desperately needed a better way of diagnosing diseases.

A very young French doctor named Rene Laennec was one of the first doctors to perform autopsies. This is one way to see what’s happened in the body, but a bit late to be of any help.

Dissecting his former patients taught Laennec a great deal about diagnosis and causes of diseases, known as pathology.

From crime TV shows and movies we’re familiar with the term“pathologist report”.

In the 1800′s Dr Laennec studied dead bodies inside and out. Desperately seeking answers. He specialized with the lungs, liver, skin and a bit of the heart.

He was very passionate about pathology. His dedication paid off with one of the greatest medical discoveries ever, up to that time.

Rene was a multi-talented man. He played music (the flute), he was skilled with woodwork, and on the side, he did some doctoring. A lot of doctoring.

His musical skill helped discover his invention (His knowledge of acoustics:the science of sound). His woodworking helped him create it, as you’ll see in a minute.

He once observed some kids playing with a long stick which they put up against their ears and then tapped with a pin to hear the sound vibrate through the stick. Acoustics.

He took note.

Once upon time a chunky young female patient went to see Dr Laennec, apparently with heart issues. The good doctor felt a bit awkward putting his ear against the girl’s well endowed chest. Well, I’ll let the doctor tell you in his own words:

“In 1816, I was consulted by a young woman laboring under general symptoms of diseased heart, and in whose case percussion and the application of the hand were of little avail on account of the great degree of fatness. The other method just mentioned [the application of the ear to the chest] being rendered inadmissible by the age and sex of the patient, I happened to recollect a simple and well-known fact in acoustics, and fancied, at the same time, that it might be turned to some use on the present occasion.”

The ear-to-body method was ineffective with obese people.

The doctor found an ingenious solution.

Laennec examing a crumb cruncher by  with his stethoscope. The picture is taken fromm a painting by Robert A. Thom, copyrighted in 1960.

He rolled up several pieces of paper to form a tube-like device.

It was kind of like the cardboard roll that paper towels are wrapped around and remains when the paper towels are finished.

He placed one end to the girl’s chest and the other to his ear and thus the Stethoscope was born. The year… 1816.

Dr Rene experimented with different materials before deciding to use wood.

With his woodworking skills he managed to create the first stethoscope, himself.

By 1819 the stethoscope was made available to all doctors.

The stethoscope became the most crucial instrument in the diagnosis of diseases. It was all the rage by 1850′s.

Technology moved slowly in those days, it wasn’t until the 1890′s when new materials like rubber was used.

Ironically, the thing that doctors rail against (obesity), is the very thing that lead to a great medical discovery. (Post written by: H. L. Ortiz, Guest Blogger)

Time for me to walk on down the road….

 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Loving Libraries and Why We’ll Always Need Them

Good Day World!

Today’s subject is libraries.

Growing up, I lurked about in those silent repositories of age-old wisdom for countless hours. My respect for libraries grew with each passing year. I will always have a soft spot for them.

Libraries are evolving with the times, but they still face numerous challenges.

New technologies are changing the services that libraries provide, for example, online reference, instruction, document delivery, user-initiated library loan, direct borrowing and self-checkout.

At least one librarian sees the shift to user-initiated services as analogous to fast food, a cheapening or devaluing of what libraries provide, hence the phrase "the McDonaldization of libraries."

I don’t see it that way however. Libraries will always represent knowledge, regardless of how it’s presented. We need libraries. Libraries are free. But all Americans don’t have access to them. The following article is an example of that:

Libraries, Literacy, and the Poor

A depressing opinion article in the New York Times highlighted a study showing low access to books among poor children in Philadelphia, as well as a nonprofit organization called First Book that tries to put new books in poor children’s hands.

The study shows that there aren’t many books for sale near poor children in Philadelphia, and that if there were a lot of families couldn’t afford them. It also demonstrates that even when there are school and public libraries around, they have many fewer books than such libraries in Philadelphia’s wealthier parts of town.

In other words, a lot of time and expense went into proving that poor kids don’t have as much of anything as rich kids. This kind of thing might be truly surprising to tenured professors at big research universities, but not to anyone else. (Full story here)

For those that love reading and collecting literature, a library can be a magical place of the imagination. It's a great place to find volumes on almost every imaginable topic. Library patrons may have a variety of reasons for visiting the library.

All of the great civilizations in the world have gathered information about their history. Without those repositories of knowledge we would have never known about the achievements of Rome, Greece, Persia, and the rest.

Related:

X-Rays Help Decipher Secrets in 2,000-Year-Old Papyrus Scrolls

Hundreds of ancient papyrus scrolls that were buried nearly 2,000 years ago after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius could finally be read, thanks to a new technique.

There will always be a need for libraries. I’ve heard the argument that libraries are no longer necessary thanks to technology like the internet. It’s a weak argument coming from drones with other agendas.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A brief reflection: Have you ever dodged death or seen it up close?

Good Day World!

Have you ever faced death?

Has your life ever been on the line? Have you watched loved ones die? Strangers die? Heard someone’s last breath, and saw life flee from their eyes?

Without a doubt, one of the most misunderstood and feared aspects of life is death.

In our Western culture, we generally do not think of death until the time comes for someone close...or our time is near.

--------------------------------------------

"...death is essentially the shedding of the body."

What remains, forever, is the soul.

Thus, "...death can be looked at as a great opportunity...the ultimate healing...the start of a [life] someplace else." - Stephen Knapp

-------------------------------------------

Ive looked into the grim face of death and survived several times while fighting in Vietnam. Even before I went into the Army, death showed itself to me. While mountain climbing in high school I was confronted with death’s finality.

Two friends and I found ourselves in a bad position while climbing. One of them fell to his death. I nearly did, but was able to break my fall. Those moments when I was rolling down the mountain – loose shale offering no grip – I saw death.

My whole life didn’t pass in front of me however. I simply thought I was going to die and was having a hard time accepting it.

I stepped on a landmine in Vietnam, but it didn’t go off. Turned out to be an anti-tank mine and I wasn’t heavy enough to depress the detonator!

I didn’t know that for several gut-wrenching minutes as my squad leader carefully probed around my foot with a knife, trying to determine my options. I was so afraid that I pissed myself.

Again, there was no instant replay of my life flashing before my eyes. Just an immense sadness that I was going to die. By the time it was determined I wouldn’t set off the mine I felt like I had died, and then came back to life.

My joy at being alive was indescribable. The lesson I learned was priceless. You never know when you time is up so you better make the most of it.

I don’t fear death.

Those days are long gone. Nor, do I embrace death. I know it’s just the final act in this drama we call life.

What lies beyond is a mystery that won’t be solved until our time comes. Meanwhile, we should live life to the fullest. Love more, and hate less.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

 

 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

94 year-old Jazz Ballad Keeps New Generations Grooving

RightOrWrong1921.png

Good Day World!

My taste in music is eclectic, but if I had to pick a favorite style/type, jazz would get the nod.

Like all good music, jazz tells a story and stands the test of time. 

The following jazz standard is an excellent example of the genre:

"Right or Wrong" is a jazz ballad from 1921.

It was composed by Arthur Sizemore and Paul Biese, with words by Haven Gillespie. The piece, described by the original sheet music as "a beautiful fox-trot ballad," deals with a universal theme.

The lyrics tell of the loss of a paramour.

The title comes from a refrain in the chorus:

Right or wrong, I'll always love you.
Tho' you're gone, I can't forget.
Right or wrong, I'll keep on dreaming,
Tho' I wake with that same old regret.
All along I knew I'd lose you,
Still I pray'd that you'd be true.
In your heart, please just remember,
Right or wrong, I'm still in love with you.

The biggest hit for "Right or Wrong" came in 1984, when George Strait recorded the old Bob Wills song for his best-selling album of the same name (See Right or Wrong).

The single from that album (MCA 52337) reached #1, staying on the charts for 12 weeks.

"Right or Wrong" was recorded by many early jazz and swing orchestras, including; Mike Markel and His Orchestra (OKeh 4478, 1921), Original Dixie Jazz Band(Oriole 445, 1925), Peggy English (Brunswick 3949, 1928), Tampa Red (Bluebird 6832, 1936), and Mildred Bailey and Her Orchestra (Vocalion 3758, 1937).

The recording with the longest lasting influence would be the one by the black-faced Emmett Miller and the Georgia Crackers (OKeh 41280, 1929).

Miller's version was picked up by an early Bob Wills and became a standard Western swing dance tune. Both Wills (Vocalion 03451, 1936) and Milton Brown(Decca 5342, 1936) made early recordings.

Western swing versions generally do not include any of the verses, only repetitions of the chorus. The song also appears on Leon Redbone's 1990 album Sugar. (Source-Wikipedia)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, January 19, 2015

There’s no such thing as free will

Good Day World!

Let’s launch into a heavy subject today.

Free will.

The column you’re about to read will make you rethink a lot of things, but first and foremost, it’ll make you wonder if you really have the ability to make choices in your life:

“Perhaps you've chosen to read this essay after scanning other articles on this website. Or, if you're in a hotel, maybe you've decided what to order for breakfast, or what clothes you'll wear today.

You haven't.

You may feel like you've made choices, but in reality your decision to read this piece, and whether to have eggs or pancakes, was determined long before you were aware of it — perhaps even before you woke up today.

And your "will" had no part in that decision. So it is with all of our other choices: not one of them results from a free and conscious decision on our part.

There is no freedom of choice, no free will. And those New Year's resolutions you made? You had no choice about making them, and you'll have no choice about whether you keep them.

The debate about free will, long the purview of philosophers alone, has been given new life by scientists, especially neuroscientists studying how the brain works. And what they're finding supports the idea that free will is a complete illusion.

The issue of whether we have of free will is not an arcane academic debate about philosophy, but a critical question whose answer affects us in many ways: how we assign moral responsibility, how we punish criminals, how we feel about our religion, and, most important, how we see ourselves — as autonomous or automatons.

What is free will?

But before I explain this, let me define what I mean by "free will." I mean it simply as the way most people think of it: When faced with two or more alternatives, it's your ability to freely and consciously choose one, either on the spot or after some deliberation.

A practical test of free will would be this: If you were put in the same position twice — if the tape of your life could be rewound to the exact moment when you made a decision, with every circumstance leading up to that moment the same and all the molecules in the universe aligned in the same way — you could have chosen differently.

Now there's no way to rewind the tape of our lives to see if we can really make different choices in completely identical circumstances. But two lines of evidence suggest that such free will is an illusion.

The first is simple: we are biological creatures, collections of molecules that must obey the laws of physics. All the success of science rests on the regularity of those laws, which determine the behavior of every molecule in the universe.

Those molecules, of course, also make up your brain — the organ that does the "choosing." And the neurons and molecules in your brain are the product of both your genes and your environment, an environment including the other people we deal with.

Memories, for example, are nothing more than structural and chemical changes in your brain cells. Everything that you think, say, or do, must come down to molecules and physics.

True "free will," then, would require us to somehow step outside of our brain's structure and modify how it works. Science hasn't shown any way we can do this because "we" are simply constructs of our brain.

We can't impose a nebulous "will" on the inputs to our brain that can affect its output of decisions and actions, any more than a programmed computer can somehow reach inside itself and change its program.

There's not much downside to abandoning the notion of free will. It's impossible, anyway, to act as though we don't have it: you'll pretend to choose your New Year's resolutions, and the laws of physics will determine whether you keep them.

And there are two upsides. The first is realizing the great wonder and mystery of our evolved brains, and contemplating the notion that things like consciousness, free choice, and even the idea of "me" are but convincing illusions fashioned by natural selection.

Further, by losing free will we gain empathy, for we realize that in the end all of us, whether Bernie Madoffs or Nelson Mandelas, are victims of circumstance — of the genes we're bequeathed and the environments we encounter.

With that under our belts, we can go about building a kinder world.” (Read full article here)

Jerry A. Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at The University of Chicago. His latest book is Why Evolution is True, and his website is www.whyevolutionistrue.com.

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, January 18, 2015

This Day in History: Civil Rights Milestones, Birthdays, Historical Events

                                   Good Day World!

Now, and then, I think it’s fun to post what happened in history on a certain day. Today’s offerings are:

CIVIL RIGHTS MILESTONES

Robert Clifton Weaver was sworn in as the first African American cabinet member in U.S. history, becoming President Lyndon B. Johnson's Secretary of Housing and Urban Development on January 18, 1966 .

First US Congressional standing committee headed by Negro,W. Dawson, on January 18, 1949.

FAMOUS BIRTHDAYS

Daniel Webster American orator and politician) was born on January 18th, 1782.

"Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" he stated in the U.S. Senate in 1830 in response to Southern Senators who contended that individual states had the right to refuse to obey Congress.

Peter Roget, thesaurus fame/inventor (slide rule, pocket chessboard) was born on January 18, 1779.

Cary Grant [Archibald Alexander Leach], actor (Movies: Arsenic & Old Lace, North by Northwest) was born on January 18, 1904

Danny Kaye,comedian/actor (Danny Kaye Show) was born on January 18, 1913

HISTORICAL EVENTS

1919 - WW I Peace Congress opens in Versailles, France

1943 - US rations bread & metal - banning pre-sliced bread reduce bakery demand for metal parts

1951 - 1st use of lie detector in Netherlands

1962 - US begins spraying foliage (Agent Orange) in Vietnam to reveal Viet Cong guerrillas

1964 - Plans for World Trade Center announced (NYC)

1980 - Pink Floyd's "Wall" hits #1

2000 - The Tagish Lake meteorite impacts the Earth.

2008 - The United Nations announce George Clooney as a UN messenger of peace

2014 - 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards: Mathew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett win

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Good Bee! Roll Over! Find the COVID-19!

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