Matt Novak hits some highlights from Joanne Brown's 1988 Journal of American History paper A is for Atom, B is for Bomb (paywalled link), which discusses the weird, grim stuff that America contemplated at the height of the cold war, and worried about how it would identify the charred corpses of children after a nuclear blast:
In February of 1952 the city of New York bought 2.5 million dog tags. By April of that year, just about every kid in the city from kindergarten to fourth grade had a tag with their name on it. Kids in many other cities like San Francisco, Seattle, Las Veagas and Philadelphia also got dog tags, allowing for easy identification should the unthinkable occur.
But educators weren't considering just dog tags to identify the scores of dead and injured children that would result if the cold war suddenly turned hot. They also considered tattoos.
It's clever enough to beat humans on quiz shows and diagnose illnesses, but is IBM's artificially intelligent supercomputer tough enough to cope with angry consumers who've been on hold for three hours?…
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
As reported last night, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala has effectively tossed out the final phase of the genocide trial of José Efraín Rios Montt. The former US-backed military dictator had been sentenced by another Guatemalan high court just 10 days ago to 80 years in prison for genocide and crimes against humanity, but pressure from the defense team and from the country's deeply conservative oligarchy and ex-military sector led to a historic reversal in what was already a historic trial. It seems likely now that the man who, on May 10, was declared guilty in the deaths of 1,771 Ixil Maya and the mass rapes by Army soldiers of countless indigenous women will be allowed to go free.
What happens with the case here is unclear. Ríos Montt will likely be released today, but many involved with the prosecution (as well as press and international observers) have already fled the country under threats from those who sought to overturn the trial. Justice in Guatemala has a long way to go.
Here are PDF archives of relevant documents in the case, for those who would like to study the courts' rulings and try and understand for themselves.
And here is the Guatemalan government's PDF archive of the Constitutional Court's May 20 ruling, overturning the trial from April 18 onward, and throwing out the verdict and sentence. I'm trying to download a copy as I publish this blog post; the server's very slow. When I can, I'll place a copy on Boing Boing's servers to share.
From a detailed post offering legal analysis, by Emi MacLean at the Open Society Justice Initiative: The Constitutional Court, in its judgment on Monday, overturned the verdict and annulled the final days of the trial—sending the trial back to where it was on April 19. (On April 19, the tribunal had heard all prosecution witnesses, but still awaited the presentation of some of the defense witnesses, closing arguments and, of course, the final verdict and sentence.) The Constitutional Court also ordered the official suspension of the trial pending the full resolution of certain legal challenges raised by the defense.
At least for now, the Constitutional Court ordered that the same trial court – Presiding Judge Yassmin Barrios and her associates Pablo Xitumul and Patricia Bustamante – reconvene to consider the case. It gave the tribunal 24 hours to comply “exactly” with these orders or risk dismissal from their posts and the possibility of civil or criminal sanction. In its judgment, the Constitutional Court did not acknowledge explicitly that the trial had already completed, concluding with a conviction.
The decision stemmed from a constitutional challenge (amparo) raised by Rios Montt’s defense attorneys at the very end of the trial. In response to an earlier challenge, both the Constitutional Court and a Guatemalan appeals court ordered the trial court to remedy a due process violation from the opening day of the trial—the expulsion of Rios Montt’s newly-appointed defense attorney on the middle of that first day, leaving him represented only by the attorney for his co-accused for several hours, until his prior defense attorneys returned to his side on the morning of the second day. (See below for more information.)
In the challenge at issue in Monday’s Constitutional Court judgment overturning the verdict, Rios Montt asserted that the trial court had not in fact complied with the orders of the appeals court concerning this due process violation, even though the appeals court had recognized the trial court as having fully complied, in a judgment issued by the appeals court just the day before the release of the verdict. (Rios Montt’s challenge was, in effect, a challenge to the appeals court’s finding that the trial court implemented fully the appellate court’s order.)
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Ireland has denied its liberal tax laws helped Apple avoid dropping dollars into the American taxpayers' purse by funnelling billions through subsidiaries based in the country.…
On the Casual Cynic Tumblr, a heart-warming story about a waitress who got a $1,000 tip from a diner she'd met for the first time that night, who wanted to help her realize her dream of visiting Italy, whence her family hailed.
So my mom and I have been working the same waitress job for 5-6 years now. She had been waitressing years before, but this is recently. Anyway, about… 15 minutes ago this guy she waited on left and told her to take care. Just that. Prior to this she had talked to him about Italy. Her people are from Florence, this and that, and she said she’s never been. She’s got 8 years of art education and she’s working a waitress job. It’s pretty… Sad and disappointing, I guess. Her and my father divorced 6 years ago and she hasn’t had a real job ever. Just been stuck in a small town she’s not from.
This man who we have never seen before tipped her 1000 dollars for a trip to Italy. Walked out, not another word.
…you know. Just when I start to lose faith in humanity….Hm.
Bruce Schneier's got smart things to say about surveillance in the age of the Internet of Things:
In the longer term, the Internet of Things means ubiquitous surveillance. If an object "knows" you have purchased it, and communicates via either Wi-Fi or the mobile network, then whoever or whatever it is communicating with will know where you are. Your car will know who is in it, who is driving, and what traffic laws that driver is following or ignoring. No need to show ID; your identity will already be known. Store clerks could know your name, address, and income level as soon as you walk through the door. Billboards will tailor ads to you, and record how you respond to them. Fast food restaurants will know what you usually order, and exactly how to entice you to order more. Lots of companies will know whom you spend your days --and night -- with. Facebook will know about any new relationship status before you bother to change it on your profile. And all of this information will all be saved, correlated, and studied. Even now, it feels a lot like science fiction.
Will you know any of this? Will your friends? It depends. Lots of these devices have, and will have, privacy settings. But these settings are remarkable not in how much privacy they afford, but in how much they deny. Access will likely be similar to your browsing habits, your files stored on Dropbox, your searches on Google, and your text messages from your phone. All of your data is saved by those companies -- and many others -- correlated, and then bought and sold without your knowledge or consent. You'd think that your privacy settings would keep random strangers from learning everything about you, but it only keeps random strangers who don't pay for the privilege -- or don't work for the government and have the ability to demand the data. Power is what matters here: you'll be able to keep the powerless from invading your privacy, but you'll have no ability to prevent the powerful from doing it again and again.
London impressario Mat Ricardo writes in with news of the next London Varieties show:
We had a ball last month at London's Leicester Square Theatre with a show that featured the very silly JOHANN LIPPOVITZ, very naughty EASTEND CABARET, very incredible LISA LOTTIE and the very legendary PAUL DANIELS - plus I risk my life! And you can watch it all right here, for free! The next show happens on May 30th, and it's going to be a doozy. We've got the astonishing hip-hop improvisor ABANDOMAN, One of the UK's hottest stars of magic PIFF THE MAGIC DRAGON, ORIGINAL STREET DANCE, and veteran variety performer MICHAEL PEARSE, and I'll be debuting one of the most complicated juggling routines I've ever attempted!
There are only three more shows in this limited season, and they're all one time only line-ups. You can book tickets at http://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873489348/events And find out more about the next show here. You can find out some of the surprises we have in store for upcoming shows, by following me on twitter @MatRicardo.