Homan Square: “The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound”

Alleged police practices at Homan Square

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.

‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ Siska said.”

Daytime napping – indicator of problems?

No causation determined – and a popular theory seems to be that the need to nap is more a sign of an underlying problem than the cause of health issues – but a recent British study suggests those who nap during the day have a significantly increased risk of death:

“Daytime napping was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality … independent of age, sex, social class, educational level, marital status, employment status, body mass index, physical activity level, smoking status, alcohol intake, depression, self-reported general health, use of hypnotic drugs or other medications, time spent in bed at night, and presence of preexisting health conditions.”

And in other mortality news, quantifying the reduced risk of death for those who eat many servings of vegetables daily:

“Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new study.”

The green of Google (and other tech) buses

Mother Jones on the environmental impact of the tech commuter buses people complain about:

“The MTA calculated that the shuttles save 757,223 car trips annually, which amounts to about 6,750 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the same as taking 1,400 cars off the road. Using Stamen’s numbers, that’s 1.6 million car trips and 14,605 metric tons of CO2—or about 3,075 fewer cars.”

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the battles between Silicon Valley commuting tech workers and San Francisco low-income renters, here’s a non-obvious but credible group: politicians and residents in Silicon Valley who don’t want the denser housing that would allow Google, Facebook, etc. employees live near their jobs.

Sudden Climate Change

Imagine a 25-degree shift average temperature shift where you live over the course of a few years:

New discoveries have shown that it is likely that one of the most abrupt of all climate changes in the last 100,000 years happened 12,000 years ago. It was called the Younger Dryas, and the temperature in Greenland jumped 25 degrees in three years. Some 1,000 years later, it fell 25 degrees in a few decades. This abrupt tipping point is now a prime candidate in the extinction of 72 percent of North American mammals, including large mammals like the saber-toothed cat and mastodon.

(More information in this report.)

Also worth considering, a report on the impact we can expect climate change to have on human society over the next few years and decades.

Airline Fuel Efficiency – which is the best?

Mother Jones has a feature comparing the fuel efficiency of different airlines. Flying a lot, of course, has a hugely detrimental effect on the environment due the great amounts of fuel used; this at least gives you the opportunity to choose more-fuel-efficient airlines.

Caveat one: their interactive map isn’t working on any of my Mac browsers, so – boo.
Caveat two: there seems to be great variability between different routes planes fly, so don’t just make choices based on which airline is most efficient, try digging deeper and make choices based on which airline is most efficient on the route you actually want to fly.

Latest Snowden revelations about what the NSA has been doing

If your favorite system administrator seems a bit down this weekend or to be drinking particularly heavily, it’s probably because of this.

As Bruce Schneier sums it up:

Basically, the NSA is able to decrypt most of the Internet. They’re doing it primarily by cheating, not by mathematics.

(Tangentially, for various reasons, I’ve recently been using Linux more and FreeBSD less. News like this is pushing me to move back past FreeBSD and into the arms of the OpenBSD fanatics.)

Evaluating musical performances based on what you see

From Ars Technica, link to a study suggesting that both professionals and normal folks can more easily judge the winner of a classical music competition from watching a silent part of the performance than hearing (but not seeing) a small part of the performance.

The twist: the judgement seems to be based on the performer’s movements translating into fairly intangible aspects, not – as I would cynically expect – the performer’s attractiveness, race, gender, etc.

(The paper itself.)

Obesity: not just for humans. Or their pets.

Marginal Revolution links to an NIH study (PDF) in which scientists studied 12 different animal species; as has been the case for humans, the weight of animals in each population has increased substantially over the past several decades:

“In a remarkable paper Allison et al. (2011) gather data on the weight at mid-life from 12 animal populations covering 8 different species all living in human environments….there are specific explanations for the weight gain in each of the animal populations, just as there are for humans. Each explanation looks plausible taken on its own but is it plausible that each population is gaining weight for independent reasons? Could there instead be a unifying explanation for the weight gain in all populations?”

Also see the more layman-friendly article at Aeon Magazine for a discussion of what this means (or should mean) for the general societal attitude that fat people are just – well – lazy. (And one of the better comments.)