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Chicago PD's Big Data: using pseudoscience to justify racial profiling


The Chicago Police Department has ramped up the use of its "predictive analysis" system to identify people it believes are likely to commit crimes. These people, who are placed on a "heat list," are visited by police officers who tell them that they are considered pre-criminals by CPD, and are warned that if they do commit any crimes, they are likely to be caught.

The CPD defends the practice, and its technical champion, Miles Wernick from the Illinois Institute of Technology, characterizes it as a neutral, data-driven system for preventing crime in a city that has struggled with street violence and other forms of crime. Wernick's approach involves seeking through the data for "abnormal" patterns that correlate with crime. He compares it with epidemiological approaches, stating that people whose social networks have violence within them are also likely to commit violence.

The CPD refuses to share the names of the people on its secret watchlist, nor will it disclose the algorithm that put it there.

This is a terrible way of running a criminal justice system.

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National Geographic teaches you how to shatter a car window with ease

Learn the trick that drunken frat boys have known for years - tossing a shard of spark plug porcelain will easily shatter a car side window. (Via Dooby Brain)

The difference between a white guy breaking into a car and a black guy breaking into a car

Simple Misfits conducted a test. They had a white guy spend 30 minutes ostentatiously trying to break into a car. Everyone ignored him, including a passing police officer. Then they had a black guy do the same th—-LET'S SEE YOUR FUCKING HANDS, GET UP AGAINST THE WALL. [via Gawker]

Survivors of the Florida School for Boys return to the site of legal kidnapping, torture and murder of children


Mother Jones has published a heartbreaking story about the survivors of the Florida School for Boys; children who were, basically, kidnapped by southern cops and sent to a hellhole where backbreaking labor, torture, and murder were the order of the day. A state court has finally given the go-ahead to exhume the graves of the children who were killed and buried in anonymous, unmarked graves by their jailers. The survivors returned for a press-conference, but found themselves with almost no press to speak to.

Mike Mechanic writes, "Johnny Gaddy, 68, still doesn't understand how he landed at Florida's Dozier reform school. When he was 11, the police showed up at his front door. 'They told me the judge wanted to talk to me,' he recalls. 'I'll never forget it as long as I live. I was watching 'The Lone Ranger' on TV. My mama said, 'The officer going to take you down, the judge going to talk to you.' I said, 'Mama, why's he going to talk to me?' She said, 'Go ahead.' He took me to the police station, told me to get in a cell. I never saw a judge. I wasn't sentenced for anything as far as I know. I was handcuffed all the way to Marianna.'

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Anders Breivik threatens hunger strike over "torture" of only getting a PS2

Mass-murderer Anders Breivik has issued a second letter of complaint about the conditions he's endured in a Norwegian prison since killing 77 teenagers attending a conference for the youth wing of a left-wing political party (here's the first, which runs to 27 pages and features a demand for moisturizer). This time around, Breivik is upset that he is forced to use an outdated Playstation 2 and isn't allowed to choose his own games; wants his uncomfortable cell-chair replaced with an armchair or sofa; and more. He threatens a hunger-strike if his 12 demands are not met.

As Lowering the Bar points out, Breivik's demand that his daily searches be ended is somewhat reasonable, especially if he's not mixing with the general population, as these would appear to be more about vindictive punishment than safety. But a hunger strike over being forced to make do with the award-winning 1999 game Rayman Revolution rather than more adult fare is a just grandstanding, as is calling the PS2 situation "torture."

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The UK Gold: riveting documentary on the deep, ingrained corruption of the UK's banking centre, the City of London

Jeff writes, "Featuring a brand new soundtrack from Radiohead's Thom Yorke, Massive Attack and Elbow, and narrated by Dominic West (The Wire), journalist Marke Donne has put together a riveting documentary exposing the tax avoidance 'industry' operated by the highly secretive, centuries old institution, The City of London.

With a permanent office in Parliament, a budget of $1.2 billion and the media-avoiding tactics of the super-rich, the City relies on lobbying and silence to carry out it's offshore tax avoidance, robbing the state of tens of billions in revenue every year."

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Flowerpot-wearing man robs gas station with chainsaw

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This gentleman is Steven Frank Steele, 19, of Ipswich, Queensland, Australia, who was arrested for attempting to rob a gas station while wearing a flower pot on his head and wielding a chainsaw. He allegedly demanded money but escaped with only a bottle of soda, but not before mooning the clerks. (Queensland Times)

McGruff the Crime Dog busted for pot and weapons

McGruff McGruff the Crime Dog was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Monday for possession of 1,000 pot plants and more than two dozen weapons, including a grenade launcher. John Russell Morales, 41, an actor who once played McGruff, was arrested in 2011. (NBC News)

Big Mouth Billy Bass animatronic fish frightens away burglar

The proprietor of the "Hooked on Fishing" store in Rochester, MN hung a Big Mouth Billy Bass animatronic by his store's door as a means of notifying him when new customers entered. The fish also doubles as burglar-frightening device: according to the Olmsted County Sheriff, the noise it made "spooked" a burglar who'd kicked the door in, sending the miscreant off empty-handed.

Now just imagine what he could have done if he's installed GNU/Linux on his animatronic fish.

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Badass personal injury lawyer Superbowl ad analyzed

Jamie Casino (whose surname at birth was possibly "Biancosino") is a personal injury lawyer in Savannah, Georgia, who bought airtime during the Superbowl for this totally badass advertisement telling the story of how he switched from criminal defense to personal injury after his brother and his brother's friend were murdered and the local law dismissed them as "no innocent victims." In a great Lowering the Bar post, Kevin Underhill investigates the ethics of the ad, and explains how it stays on the right side of the law.

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McDonald's employee busted for selling heroin Happy Meals

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Remember last year when the family of a four-year-old boy ordered him a Burger King Kids Meal and found a pot pipe packed with weed? Not to be outdone, an employee at a McDonald's in Pittsburgh, PA was busted selling heroin in Happy Meal boxes. According to police, Shantia Dennis, 26, told drive-through dope customers to use the code phrase: ā€œIā€™d like to order a toy.ā€ (WGHP)

Canadian spies illegally tracked travellers using free airport Wifi

A new Snowden leak reported on the CBC reveals that secretive Canadian spy-agency CSEC was illegally spying on Canadians by collecting information from the free Wifi service in major airports and cross-referencing it with intercepted information from Wifi at cafes, libraries and other public places in Canada.

The agency is prohibited from spying on Canadians without a warrant, but it captured data on all travellers in a Canadian airport, ensuring that it captured an enormous amount of sensitive information about Canadians. It claims that because it did not "target" Canadians (that is, it spied on everyone, regardless of nationality), they somehow weren't "spying" on Canadians.

The CBC article features a brilliant and incandescent Ron Diebert (who runs the Citizenlab centre at the University of Toronto and wrote one of the best books on Internet surveillance, Black Code), and an equally outraged Ann Cavoukian, the Ontario privacy commissioner, who is one of the most savvy privacy advocates in any government.

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Omaha cop, fired for beating suspect, then raiding house of citizen who recorded him, is back on the job

Omaha police officer Bradley D Canterbury was fired after he beat up a suspect and then participated in a brutal, illegal retaliatory raid on the home of a citizen who'd video-recorded the incident. Canterbury was one of over 30 Omaha police officers who broke into a family home without a warrant intending to destroy mobile phone video evidence of his violent actions, and was one of six officers from that cohort who were fired for the beating.

Now he's got his job back.

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Rob Ford sued for jailhouse beating of his ex-brother-in-law

Here's a new turn in the saga of Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford, the mayor of Toronto: a lawsuit alleges that he had a couple of his former football team proteges beat six kind of hell out of his estranged brother-in-law in jail. The brother-in-law is suing Ford, saying that when he was in jail, a couple of Ford's former players broke his leg and shattered his teeth as a warning to stay silent about the mayor's drug problem. Cory 30

NSA phone-records spying is totally, utterly illegal

As Julian Sanchez points out, the NSA's program of phone record collection is clearly, unequivocally, and totally illegal (and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board agrees). The Patriot Act's section 215 allows the FBI to collect relevant records for a specific investigation.

The NSA isn't collecting records, it isn't the FBI, the data it collects isn't relevant, and there is no specific investigation. It's pretty amazing that there are still people (including Obama) insisting that the program is legal.

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