Some good news

About a month ago, I wrote about the case of Cornealious Michael Anderson III, a man who was convicted but never sent to jail. He managed to turn his life around and start a family but was re-arrested 13 years later and was going to have to serve that time. I am pleased to say that, a few days ago, he was released from prison and given credit for his entire sentence.

“You’re a good man, and you’re a changed man, and that makes a huge difference in my decision today…. You’re not the man you were fourteen years ago,” said Brown. “I believe that continuing to [incarcerate you] serves no purpose” — here there were gasps and tears from the Anderson family — “I think it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars. I think it would unnecessarily punish an obviously rehabilitated man.”

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What is the point of the justice system?

This story is totally ridiculous. The entire point of a justice system should be to reform criminals so that they can return to society. Now I’ve heard of story where a man, due to an error, was not sent to jail. In the meantime though, he hasn’t been out committing crimes. He started a family, started businesses, made no attempt to hide and has essentially been a model citizen. When he was going to be released, they realised he wasn’t in jail and arrested him. Now they want him to server his 13 year sentence. More details available from the Riverfront Times here and here. That is totally pointless! It’s pure retributive “justice” that seeks only to punish. It’s ethically indefensible and serves absolutely no practical purpose.

There is a Change.org petition for his release.

Spying leftovers

Sorry for the sparse posting. I’ve been spending time with family and friends over the Christmas/New Year’s period. I was away for New Year’s with some of my family and am currently away again, staying with a friend. I will be home later this week and should then be able to start posting regularly again.

Over the past few months, I took note of a number of stories regarding how the US and UK were spying on essentially everyone. Many of them have already been posted (see here, here, here and here) but I still have a couple more that were not always focussed on the spying themselves or which were particularly interesting in light of the NSA’s actions. I’m posting all of them together here. Continue reading

Updates on US spying

Snowden’s leak of top secret US documents has been described as the most serious breach in US history. And it’s constantly brought up that it’s made the US more vulnerable to attack. It’s not often brought up, at least by the US, that their actions made everyone else more vulnerable or why US interests outweigh those of the rest of the world. While one could at least understand the risk of terrorist attacks (although to hear grown ups talking seriously about enemies does seem a bit like what you’d expect on a junior school playground) it’s a lot harder to take seriously the need to spy on allies. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Government spying

Sorry for the lack of updates here. I’ve been very busy helping to organise the human genetics open day, where we show high school kids what we do, and preparing for a postgraduate research day talk, which I presented today. While I try rest a little I’ll share a couple of links I’ve been picking up that are related to the NSA leaks and government spying programmes.

Some people are reporting that the NSA has been bugging the EU and UN, a strange place to look for terrorists. The UN just said that it is protected by international treaties and members are expected to act accordingly.

Not unexpectedly, all the focus on the US spying has damaged people’s trust in US IT companies and fairly large numbers are moving to alternatives. Tech companies aren’t happy about that and this link talks about possible future conflicts with tech companies and government with regards to security and privacy. This is a big thing as Facebook received requests for info on 38 000 users in the first half of this year! Microsoft and Google are even teaming up to sue the US government over the restrictions about what they can reveal about user data requests.

Lastly is a disturbing report that the New York Police Department is labelling entire mosques as terrorist organisations! This allows them to spy on what happens even though they make these designations with apparently no justification, something the FBI refused to do.

Falling nations

To say that, on the whole, the UK and US are falling is perhaps premature. I can, however, say that my opinion of them has certainly fallen quite a bit in the past few weeks. The UK has its problematic porn policy, which you should see as problematic regardless of your view of porn because of the direction it suggests the government is moving in. The UK has also been wrapped up in the, mostly US, issue of extensive surveillance conducted by the NSA. Continue reading

Quicklinks: Borders, dolphins and spying

Garry Davis, a man who renounced his American citizenship and declared himself a citizen of the world died on the 24th of July. His “citizen of the world” idea is quite appealing and it’s interesting how it hasn’t caught on. I see little value in patriotism and it’s hard not to draw comparisons between passports and the pass laws of Apartheid South Africa. The pass laws were based on race but if they were instead based on where one was born, how would they really differ? I think any differences must be minor.

There is a post on WEIT dealing with India’s ban on captive dolphins and public opinion of the issue in Spain and Italy. I also saw a story where an American aquarium was recently denied permission to import Beluga dolphins. Related to both incidents, new research shows that dolphin memories can last at least 20 years! (covered in ScienceNow and Nature News)

Lastly, Edward Snowden has been granted one year’s asylum in Russia. This is excellent news for him considering Bradley Manning is facing up to 90 years in jail. Hopefully these cases, particularly Snowden’s, will send a message that large-scale monitoring and cover-ups of military actions are not acceptable. In the time, here are a number of ways to minimise data surveillance and generally increase your online security.