Singaporean border guards stop a man trying to smuggle kittens in his pants. And you thought your workweek was off to a good start. https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/01/07/smuggling_cats_in_trousers/
On the Criminal podcast, host Phoebe Judge spends a day riding along with an Austin, Texas, police officer. https://thisiscriminal.com/episode-102-ride-along-11-2-2018/ Night and day compared with the dysfunctional, dystopian Cleveland criminal justice system portrayed in the Serial podcast. https://serialpodcast.org/
An early facsimile message was sent over telegraph lines in London in 1847, based on a design by the Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. There is some dispute over whether it was the first fax: Competing inventors, including Bain in the United Kingdom and Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell across the Atlantic, sought to father facsimile technology, which was a kind of white whale for inventors. Telegraphs already allowed messages to be passed across distances, one letter at a time using Morse code. But the dream of transmitting copies of messages and images instantly over wires was very much alive. Writing in 1863, Jules Verne imagined that the Paris of the 1960s would be replete with fax machines, or as he called them, “picture-telegraphs.”
The technology did eventually lead to a revolution in communication, though it didn’t happen until years later. It first became known to many Americans after the 1939 New York World’s Fair, where a fax machine transmitted newspaper images from around the world at a rate of 18 minutes per page—lightning speed for the time.
“In an age of instantaneous information and images, it is hard to appreciate the magic that millions in the 1930s experienced upon seeing photographs of distant disasters appear the next day in their newspapers, or the excitement in the 1980s of watching an exact copy of a letter emerge line by line from a machine connected to the telephone network,” Jonathan Coopersmith writes in his book Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine.
Faxing really took off in the ’80s, in offices around the world. It caused major changes in the speed of business transactions, allowing individuals and companies to disseminate materials quickly and broadly—someone in an office building in Japan could fire off a document to the United States instantly. It also served as a precursor to today’s digital-image culture: Fax allowed for the speedy dissemination of pictures of all kinds. This gave rise to so-called creative faxers who, Coopersmith writes, faxed “pizza orders, song requests, party invitations, greeting cards, ski reports, amniocentesis results, baby footprints, children’s drawings, and vows of eternal love.” People faxed Santa Claus. They faxed God, via the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
But its reign was short-lived.
“The New York Police Department on Tuesday unveiled plans to deploy 14 [drones] and to train 29 officers to operate them, opening an intense debate about whether an agency previously criticized for illegally surveilling citizens should possess such powerful technology.”
Cops say the drones would be used for monitoring big crowds, investigating hazardous waste spills, handling hostage situations and reaching remote crime scenes, among other jobs. “They will not be used for routine police patrols, unlawful surveillance or to enforce traffic laws, the officials said. Nor will they be equipped with weapons…. ”
But civil rights activists are concerned about “mission creep” — spying on black and Hispanic neighborhoods, and exploitation by the Trump administration to target illegal immigrants.
Seattle area yogurt shop employees wet their pants because a black guy is in their store, police go along with it. He’s a military veteran whose job is to supervise family visitation – he was working at the time, accompanying a mother and her daughter on a trip out for yogurt.
A new documentary shows the frightening mundanities of police militarization, says Radley Balko at The Washington Post.
Reynolds reacted to reports that protesters in Charlotte are swarming the highways and surrounding cars. “Run them down,” Reynolds said. That was the tweet that got him suspended.
But riots aren’t peaceful protest. And blocking interstates and trapping people in their cars is not peaceful protest — it’s threatening and dangerous, especially against the background of people rioting, cops being injured, civilian-on-civilian shootings, and so on. I wouldn’t actually aim for people blocking the road, but I wouldn’t stop because I’d fear for my safety, as I think any reasonable person would.
Twitter is quicker on the trigger to censor people on one side of the political chasm than the other, Reynolds says.
Later, he responds to a suggestion that “Keep driving” would have been a better tweet: “It would have been, and in only two words instead of three. But I’ve had over 580,000 tweets, and they can’t all be perfect.”
OPENED UP TWITTER TO SEE THIS: – Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
The 80s influences of “Stranger Things” are obvious — Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, the “Goonies” and other 80s movies that appealed to preadolescents of that decade. But Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker finds an older, darker influence: H.P. Lovecraft
The scientific worldview says that the universe is neutral. It doesn’t care if you live or die. But Lovecraft had a different view: The universe is evil. It hates us. And it’s supremely powerful, inhabited by entities who are to us as we are to insects, and are eager to torment us just for giggles. In Lovecraft’s view, the Earth is a tiny little island of relative safety that could open to that wider, hostile universe with a single pinprick of reality. In Lovecraft’s view, the pinprick came from miscegenation — racial contamination — Lovecraft was a full-throated bigot who hated and feared brown-skinned people and Eastern and Southern Europeans.
But Lovecraft has many heirs and imitators today, and they substitute other forces for racial impurity. In the case of “Stranger Things,” the horror is unleashed by US government scientific bureaucracy, as it often is in King’s novels.
Rothman identifies two target audiences for “Stranger Things:” Adults who were children in the 80s and view the series as a big ol’ nostalgia wallow, and children who look back on that era as a golden age before they were born, sort of like the 50s were viewed when I was a teen-ager in the 70s.
I’m from an older generation; I turned 20 in 1981. I enjoyed the nostalgia of “Stranger Things” because the period portrayed on the show was not all that different from the early 70s, when I was the same age as the show’s child heroes. As kids in the early 70s, we roamed freely around the neighborhoods on our bikes and engaged in nerdy pursuits without parental supervision. We didn’t have Dungeons & Dragons; that hadn’t been invented yet. But we played marathon games of Risk.
This idea of the universe being actively hateful and evil is a new one for me. I’m a rationalist, I don’t believe that the real universe is evil. An indifferent universe can be hostile enough at times.
But the idea of an actively hostile and evil universe certainly opens possibilities for fantastic fiction.
Joe Haldeman said that in science fiction, the universe is neutral and knowable through reason and science; in fantasy, the universe is unknowable; and in horror the universe is hostile. (I think he said that — he said something along those lines but I may be misremembering the specifics.) While science fiction and fantasy are usually paired together as “fantastic fiction,” science fiction’s actual closest sibling is the police procedural, Haldeman notes.
Rich white folks worry about the Singularity, but AI is already making problems for the rest of us.
Kate Crawford, The New York Times:
According to some prominent voices in the tech world, artificial intelligence presents a looming existential threat to humanity: Warnings by luminaries like Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom about “the singularity” — when machines become smarter than humans — have attracted millions of dollars and spawned a multitude of conferences.
But this hand-wringing is a distraction from the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many “intelligent” systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.
Software used to assess the risk of recidivism in criminals is biased against blacks, as is software used by police departments across the US to identify hotspots for crime. Amazon’s same-day delivery service was initially unavailable for ZIP codes in predominantly black neighborhoods, “remarkably similar to those affected by mortgage redlining in the mid-20th century.” And women are less likely than men to be shown ads on Google for highly paid jobs.
Charles Kinsey, an employee at an assisted living facility, was trying to retrieve an autistic young man who had wandered away and was blocking traffic. Police challenged Kinsey, and he got down on the ground with his empty hands in the air. Police shot Kinsey anyway. Then the police handcuffed Kinsey and left him bleeding on the pavement in the hot Florida sun for 20 minutes until help arrived.
Michael E. Miller and Mark Berman report for The Washington Post.
[Elizabeth Joh, law professor at the University of California, Davis] said she was worried that the decision by police to use robots to end lives had been arrived at far too casually. “Lethally armed police robots raise all sorts of new legal, ethical, and technical questions we haven’t decided upon in any systematic way,” she said. “Under federal constitutional law, excessive-force claims against the police are governed by the fourth amendment. But we typically examine deadly force by the police in terms of an immediate threat to the officer or others. It’s not clear how we should apply that if the threat is to a robot – and the police may be far away.” That, Joh added, is only one condition for the use of lethal force. “In other words, I don’t think we have a framework for deciding objectively reasonable robotic force. And we need to develop regulations and policies now, because this surely won’t be the last instance we see police robots.”
How is this situation ethically or legally different from taking out a criminal with a sniper?
Kevin Liptak has more at CNN:
“If communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement offers who are doing a great job, who are doing the right thing, that makes their lives harder,” Obama said, insisting that recognizing problems within law enforcement doesn’t equate to being anti-police.
“When people say ‘black lives matter,’ it doesn’t mean that blue lives don’t matter,” Obama said, referring to police officers. “But right now, the data shows that black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. There is a particular burden that is being placed on a group of our fellow citizens.”
The killings in Minnesota and Louisiana by police were tragic, and apparently murder. We don’t have all the facts yet, but it certainly appears that way.
These killings are also tragic, and virtually certainly murder and terrorism.
Seems like that needed to be said.
Joshua Berlinger, Nick Valencia, and Steve Almasy report for CNN:
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (CNN) – A homeless man made the 911 call that brought police to the convenience store where Alton Sterling was shot dead, a senior law enforcement official told CNN on Thursday.
Sterling was selling CDs outside the Triple S Food Mart early Tuesday in Baton Rouge, the official said, when the homeless man approached him and asked for money.
The man was persistent, and Sterling showed him his gun, the official said.
“I told you to leave me alone,” Sterling told the man, according to the official.
The homeless man then used his cell phone to call 911, the official said.
Immediately after police shot Philando Castile in his car, a woman passenger live-streamed video of the event.
“We are being hunted,” says the victim’s mother, Valerie Castile.
That’s the second controversial police shooting of an African-American man in as many days.
America when the Second Amendment was adopted was a small nation on the edge of a vast unsettled frontier that was without government or rule of law. The nation had no professional police forces, and no standing, professional armies.
As for the bit about militias: Even in colonial times, an all-volunteer Army couldn’t beat a professional, standing army. George Washington himself complained relentlessly about that.
Police: Father wearing ‘#1 DAD’ shirt used daughter as human shield to avoid arrest – Sean Delancey, WCHS Eyewitness News, Charleston/Huntington, WV
Texas police tell little girl she is in “big trouble” for buying school meal with $2 bill – Mark Frauenfelder, Boing Boing
School administrators and police were unaware that a $2 bill is legal money in the US, printed up same as a $1, $5, $10, etc.
Hundreds of demonstrators filled the street outside the Orange County amphitheater where Donald Trump held a rally Thursday night, stomping on cars, hurling rocks at motorists and forcefully declaring their opposition to the Republican presidential candidate.
This is just the beginning. It’s going to be a long spring, summer, and fall.
Smalltown politics. I covered a town like this – the tiny town of Byram, New Jersey – on my daily newspaper days.
American police departments were founded in the early 19th Century not to control crime but to combat civil dissent, which took the form of riots. Since then, relationships between police and the communities they’re chartered to serve has been fraught.
The Backstory podcast:
For many Americans, the storyline that played out on August 9  in Ferguson, Mo. — when an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer — is not a new one. But the sustained protests that followed, in which Ferguson police used military equipment for crowd control, have generated a new round of questioning about the role of local police in their communities.
So on this episode, we’re looking at the history of policing in America, and how the police departments we’re familiar with today began to take shape. And we’ll consider what happens when the police don’t protect those they serve….
Scholar Khalil Gibran Muhammad talks with Brian Balogh about how many ethnic groups have shed their criminal reputations through police service, and the more complicated legacy of early African-American officers.
Many ethnic groups, including the Irish and Italians, saw many individuals become police officers, which aided assimilation. African Americans have been blocked from that route.
Also: Technology has shaped the police from the beginning, from the invention of handcuffs to handguns to two-way radios to bodycams.