LAPD Corruption Scandal: Up to 30,000 Cases Need to be Reviewed

    Los Angeles taxpayers are going to be paying the price for years to come for their city’s tolerance of corrupt cops. After initially suggesting that only a few thousand cases would need to be reviewed, the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office recently admitted that it would have to re-examine upwards of 30,000 cases that the corrupt officers were involved with over the last 5 to 10 years.

    Michael Judge, who heads the public defender’s office, told CNN that his office is already employing 20 lawyers at a cost of $4.5 million a year to re-examine cases and it will take “many years” for his staff to go through them. Add to that the wave of civil lawsuits against the city, and the ultimate price tag for the scandal could be staggering.

    Of course the very same community victimized by an out of control LAPD will then be expected to turn around and compensate itself, though at one point there was talk of setting aside part of California’s stake in the tobacco settlement to cover some of the costs of the scandal.

    Unfortunately this is certainly not the last corruption scandal that will hit L.A. (or other major cities, where cop corruption always flares up every few years). When you have police required to go into communities and treat everyone as suspects thanks to the war on drugs, this sort of widespread corruption is all but inevitable. It’s about time to declared the U.S. a demilitarized zone and cease hostilities in the war on drugs before nobody has any respect left for police.

Source:

Public defender: Up to 30,000 cases need review in light of LAPD scandal. CNN, August 10, 2000.

Mini-MindRover

If you are a robot afficianado, Cognitoy
makes an excellent computer simulation of robotics called MindRover.
MindRover is a game of robots that battle each other or race to cross a finish
line or retrieve some reward, but unlike most computer games where you control
the onscreen action, in MindRover you configure your robot with the right equipment,
then use an intuitive visual system to program its behavior and let it go.

There have been a number of games over the years based on this concept, but
none of them delivered like MindRover does on both the graphics end and the
programming end. Most such games have programming paradigms that are excessively
simple or require you to be a programming wizard — MindRover strikes an excellent
balance between the two extremes with a system that is easy to get understand
out of the box, but can easily be expanded to handle more complex behaviors.

If that sounds interesting, check out the browser-based version of the game,
Mini-Mind Rover.
It requires at leaat IE 4.0 or Netscape 4.5 and gives a real sense of the sort
of tinkering you can do in MindRover.

Robotics Links

When I was in high school many years, as a class project we built a robot from a kit. The robot kits you can buy for under a $100 today put the expensive robot kit we used to shame:

  • ArsRobotica – portal-style web site for all things robotic. Update — this domain expired and was grabbed up by some lame marketer.
  • Robot Store – online source for all things robotic.

WIPO=Morons

In a
column
on CNet today, Brian Livingstone reports that the World Intellectual
Property Organization is accepting comments on a proposal to disallow domain
names based on geographical areas, personal names, or tradenames. Of course
this is completely illegal, but the WIPO is a United Nations subsidiary — they
did not want to stop genocide in Rwanda, but apparently they want to make sure
I cannot register briancarnell.com.

The WIPO is a symptom of everything that is wrong with how domain name disputes
are handled. First, the ICANN guidelines clearly say domains should be taken
from users only when they are registered or used in “bad faith.” But WIPO and
others have simply decided on their own to take domain names from people if
they are tradenames. For example, it recently took Crew.Com away from a legitimate
small business and gave it to JCrew.

In addition, the ICANN guidelines are set up so that the plaintiff in a domain
disupte case gets to choose the arbitrator. So if somebody decides I should
not have carnell.com, that person gets to decide which arbitrator to use. Most
choose WIPO, and what do you know WIPO returns the favor by favoring the plaintiff
in close to 90 percent of cases. eResolution, which favors plaintiffs only about
half the time, gets far less business. That is a process that needs to be changed
immediately.

On the other hand, the good news is that if WIPO actually approves this, it
would create a ruckus not only from folks like me but from the big guys too.
They would have to get rid of all domain names that are geographical? The Amazon.Com
folks will just love that move.

‘Maybe He Was Just Trying to Scare Her’?

A woman in Florida is alive today because her father had the foresight to buy her a gun for personal protection.

Twenty-eight year old Maria Pittaras awoke to find her neighbor, Robert Metz, wearing a mask and holding a knife to her throat. She grabbed a gun she kept on her nightstand and shot him, killing him instantly.

Mitz had apparently recently begin suffering from manic depression and according to relatives and friends been sliding quickly into mental illness. Some unidentified associates speculated in newspaper reports that it was his illness that led to the attack.

Incredibly, though, there were neighbors who didn’t feel Pittaras’ shooting of Metz was justified. One of Pittaras’ neighbors, Maruice Strong, told the Tampa Tribune,

Why would a married man with kids pick that particular house? There has to be more to it than anyone is saying. He was the nicest guy in the world and wouldn’t hurt anyone. Maybe he was just trying to scare her.

Sure, he was just trying to scare her and why not just go ahead and charge her with a crime. Bizarre. But not nearly as bizarre as all of the gun control advocates who want to make sure women like Pittaras are unarmed and unable to defend themselves.

Source:

Ill man shot dead attacking neighbor. Candace J. Samolinski, The Tampa Tribune, August 9, 2000.

Putting CJD Increase In Context

    Readers who just scanned the headlines announcing the dramatic increase in CJD deaths in Great Britain might have had good reason to be alarmed. “CJD deaths ‘quadrupled since 1995′” the BBC headline read; CNN tagged their story with “Human form of mad cow disease on the increase.” But is the latest look at CJD rates in Great Britain really cause for alarm? Probably not.

To its credit, the BBC (unlike most other news reports), actually reproduced the data on CJD cases and deaths since 1994 which is reproduced in the table below:

Year

New CJD Diagnoses

CJD
Deaths

First, the obvious thing to note is that the number of cases of CJD in Great Britain have remained relatively stable over the 5-year period of 1995-1999. The BBC spun this by saying that “the number of reportec cases of vCJD has increased by an average of 23% each year since 1994,” which is true, but this is the same as saying that on average over the past 5 years an average of 12.5 people are diagnosed with CJD each year.

Of course a prevalence rate of 13 or so people a year isn’t as compelling as CJD deaths quadrupling. Neither would it be much fun, if you’re a BBC reporter, to point out that in any disease where the number of new cases remains relatively constant, the total number of deaths will by definition at least quadruple over a 4-5 year period. Yet, I don’t remember the “Malaria Deaths Quadrupled” or “Cholera Deaths Quadrupled” stories, although in fact the number of total deaths from these diseases did quadruple over the period 1995-1999.

Second, the biggest problem with the statistics is it is very hard to put them into any sort of long-term context. Diagnosing CJD is a very time consuming and difficult business. According to the CNN report on the increase in cases and deaths, “The disease can only be confirmed by examining the brains of victims after they have died and scientists have only been able to establish the onset of infection by asking the victims’ relatives when symptoms first occurred.”

Since the Mad Cow scare started in the late 1990s, of course, physicians and others have been much more circumspect about such inquiries and examining the brains of suspected victims, but of course prior to the furor over the Mad Cow infection there was nowhere near the awareness about and throughness to uncover cases of CJD. As a result, it is extremely difficult to know whether the fact that there were no reported cases of CJD nor no reported deaths from CJD is a result of there simpy being no CJD or rather there being little or no effort to look for it (in fact there has been speculation that a considerable number of people who were diagnosed with alzheimer’s and alzheimer’s like diseases might instead have been misdiagnosed CJD sufferers).

CJD deaths ‘quadrupled since 1995’. The BBC, August 4, 2000.

Human form of mad cow disease on the increase. CNN. August 4, 2000