Society's Child
Map

Handcuffs

Boycott Italy: Amanda Knox convicted of murder in Italian retrial

Image

Amanda Knox
American student Amanda Knox said Thursday that she is "frightened and saddened" after being re-convicted in the stabbing death of her roommate when they were students in Italy in 2007.

A panel of judges and jurors set a sentence of 28 years and six months for Knox, who returned to the United States after an earlier conviction was reversed. They also convicted her Italian ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, sentenced him to 25 years and banned him from traveling.

"I am frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict," the 26-year-old said in a written statement from her home in Seattle, where she returned after spending four years in prison.

"Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system."

It's unclear what will happen to Knox, who is certain to appeal - a process that could take a year or longer. Even if the high court confirms the new conviction, Italy still would have to seek her extradition. She has vowed not to return.

Sollecito's lawyers said they were stunned by the latest twist in a whiplash-inducing case that has made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic for six years.

"There isn't a shred of proof," attorney Luca Maori said.

Yoda

Pete Seeger: Troubadour of truth and justice

Image
Pete Seeger's life, like the arc of the moral universe famously invoked by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., bent toward justice. He died this week at 94. Pete sang truth to power through the epic struggles of most of the last century, for social justice, for civil rights, for workers, for the environment and for peace. His songs, his wise words, his legacy will resonate for generations.

Pete's parents were musicians. They traveled the U.S., exposing their children to the music of rural America. By 19, Pete was working for the acclaimed folklorist Alan Lomax, recording and cataloging folk songs for the Library of Congress. There he met Woody Guthrie, the legendary Depression-era troubadour of the working class, who was just a few years older. Seeger traveled with Guthrie, learned to hop freight trains and became inspired to unite his passion for the pursuit of justice with his musical talent. He, Woody and others formed the Almanac Singers in 1940. They lived communally in New York's Greenwich Village, and eked out a living by performing. Then came World War II.

Pete was drafted into the Army. When I asked him in 2004 about his military service, he recalled: "I first wanted to be a mechanic in the Air Force. ... But then military intelligence got interested in my politics. My outfit went on to glory and death, and I stayed there in Keesler Field, Mississippi, picking up cigarette butts for six months." He was later transferred to Saipan, in the Pacific, organizing entertainment for troops recuperating in the military hospital there. While on furlough in New York City, Pete proposed marriage to his sweetheart, Toshi Ohta. Toshi died last year at 91, just months shy of their 70th wedding anniversary.

Red Flag

Wikipedia the top source of health care info for doctors, patients

Image
© PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Wikipedia is the single leading source of health care information for both providers and patients, with 50 percent of physicians reporting that they've consulted the community-edited, online encyclopedia for information on health conditions.

A report from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a medical technology company that draws on data from more than 100,000 suppliers and 45 billion healthcare transactions each year, finds that Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals. Serious illnesses, especially less common ones, are among the most frequently searched topics by English-language users.

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia is the world's largest general reference work available on the Internet, with more than 30 million articles in 287 languages that can be edited and posted without cost by any person with access to the Internet. However, the online encyclopedia's more than 71,000 active editors have no credential checks, and there are numerous instances of deliberate vandalism and fabricated posts.

Despite the issues with accuracy, the IMS Health report revealed that people trust Wikipedia enough to seek a wide-ranging cache of information about their personal health and medicine.

The top 100 English Wikipedia pages for health care topics were accessed an average 1.9 million times over the course of the past year. And analysis of prescription drug sales found a correlation between page views and medicine use.

V

Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel peace prize

© Associated Press
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, has leaked top-secret documents into the U.S. spy agency's activities over the past few months.
Two Norwegian politicians say NSA whistleblower's actions have led to a 'more stable and peaceful world order'

Two Norwegian politicians say they have jointly nominated the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel peace prize.

The Socialist Left party politicians Baard Vegar Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen said the public debate and policy changes in the wake of Snowden's whistleblowing had "contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order".

Being nominated means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider for the prestigious award.

Bad Guys

News of the World hacker admits lying - part of 'enormous conspiracy'

Image
© Andy Rain/EPA
Former News of the World reporter Dan Evans has admitted at the phone-hacking trial that he lied in a 2009 witness statement.
Dan Evans tells court that 2009 witness statement was 'drafted by News International lawyers' and he was 'toeing the line'

Dan Evans, the former News of the World hacker, has admitted lying about trying to access interior designer Kelly Hoppen's phone messages but said it was because he was part of an "enormous conspiracy" at News International, the Old Bailey has heard.

When it was put to him that he had lied, Evans said: "I was toeing the line, the party line, the company line."

Evans said he was very frightened when he was caught and a bogus defence he used when initially questioned by a superior on the paper had inadvertently made it into a witness statement drafted by the company's lawyers Farrers.

Evans said: "I bitterly regret I didn't take a braver course of action at the time. I didn't want to disabuse that they wanted to run with it."

Evans has pleaded guilty to making a false witness statement in relation to high court action that followed from the Hoppen hacking in 2009.

Under cross-examination on Wednesday he admitted he had lied in his first witness statement to Farrers and described a second witness statement with his own lawyers at Peters & Peters as "cobblers".

He claimed he had accidentally tried to dial Hoppen's voicemail because his Nokia phone had been damaged by liquid and had "sticky keys".

USA

Arizona sheriff sez: Inmates who deface flags to get only bread and water

Image
© Reuters
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County said inmates who defaced American flags in their cells will be fed only bread and water for a week.

The flags were placed in cells in November in a patriotism campaign by the sheriff, who accused some inmates of "tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel. It's a disgrace," CNN reported.

In addition to the display of flags, the "Star Spangled Banner" is played over the jail intercom each morning and every evening inmates hear "God Bless America," the report said.

Bacon n Eggs

Food prices in U.S. to skyrocket in 2014

Image

Carnivores, brace yourselves: The cost of steaks will skyrocket this year, and as a result, you'll probably see more restaurants serving up nose-to-tail and root-to-stalk culinary creations. But hold your taste buds - there are a number of other food trends that will shake up your senses if not your sensibilities.

Food trends on the menu for 2014:

How much is the beef?

The rising cost of a good piece of meat may have you thinking twice about buying one in the grocery store or ordering one in a restaurant. Beef prices have been steering higher for many months, and will probably continue to do so as supplies decline and demand stays constant or even moves lower.

Comment: Mint-chocolate flavored toothpaste and robot bartenders, just what we need to ease the transition into an ice-age with collapsing economy.


Question

Conspiracy theorists' favorite lab is moving to Kansas

© Wikimedia Commons

The stories about Plum Island, an unremarkable 3-mile strip off the coast of Long Island that has long played home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, are the stuff of comic books and horror movies.

During the cold war, folks said it was home to a secret biological weapons program involving a former Nazi scientist. Years later, it was blamed for the spread of Lyme disease (which was named for a town in nearby Connecticut). The latter claim was so persistent that the Department of Homeland Security still refutes it on its website.

Plum Island has also been the setting for a novel and the subject of the TV show Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura, and it even got a shout-out from fictional bogeyman Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. "Sounds charming," he said of the place.

Now, the government is spending more than $1 billion to move the lab, which studies swine flu, foot-and-mouth disease, and other livestock ailments, from New York to Manhattan, Kan. - and the talk is starting again.

The project, which received $404 million in the latest appropriations bill, has alternately been described as a vital government priority, an "earmarkish" piece of pork, an economic boost to the locals, and a biological danger to a rural community, depending on who is doing the talking. It's a sterling reminder that there is more than one way to view a government expenditure.

As elected officials from Kansas tell it, moving what is now called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility from the 843-acre, off-limits campus on Plum Island to a site adjacent to Kansas State University represents a huge economic victory.

"This investment means Kansas will become a research epicenter, and the construction of this modern, world-class facility will ultimately create jobs for Kansans in the fields of engineering, science and technology," crowed Sen. Jerry Moran in a release after the funding was appropriated.

Laptop

Twitter trolls jailed for sending abusive tweets

Image
© Skynews
Nimmo and Sorley arrive separately at Westminster Magistrates Court.
A man and a woman are jailed for abusing high-profile feminist Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy on Twitter

Two people who sent abusive and menacing tweets to banknote campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour MP Stella Creasy have been jailed.

Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, posted dozens of abusive tweets against both women before they were arrested.

Senior district judge Howard Riddle jailed Sorley for 12 weeks and Nimmo for eight weeks as well as ordering them to pay £400 compensation to each victim.

Earlier this month the pair pleaded guilty to sending the menacing tweets, admitting they were among the users of 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages.

Passing sentence at Westminster Magistrates Court, Judge Riddle said that both victims had suffered substantially as a result of the abuse.

He said Ms Criado-Perez had faced "panic, fear and horror" adding that she feared the "abusers would find her and carry out the threats. She felt hunted."

Arrow Down

State crime labs are incentivized to get false convictions

© HealthDay
To understand why the United States is the most incarcerated nation in the world, all aspects of the legal system must be scrutinized. One of the least considered points of corruption is the crime lab.

A recent study found that crime labs across the country are literally being incentivized to turn out results that will be favorable to prosecutors in getting criminal convictions. Some say that this introduces a point of compromise in a process that is supposed to be free of bias and partiality.

Its not hard to imagine why. Biased reward schedules are how animals are trained. When a performance is rewarded, a subject will produce more of it. When a performance is not rewarded, a subject will produce less of it.

Like a puppy being rewarded for performing a trick, the government rewards crime labs for "verifying" that unknown substances are illegal narcotics; for finding a driver's blood alcohol content to be over a certain arbitrary number; for determining that a package of drugs is over a certain arbitrary weight so a more draconian charge can be imposed.

Impossible? Consider the recent corruption scandal in Massachusetts, in which a biased crime lab chemist used her position to intentionally forge test results, casting doubt over the validity of tens of thousands of cases.