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Frank Kieviet
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Frank Kieviet

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In a searing investigation into the once lauded biotech start-up Theranos, Nick Bilton discovers that its precocious founder defied medical experts—even her own chief scientist—about the veracity of its now discredited blood-testing technology.
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One of those impressively informative XKCD's (on global temperatures over time)
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From the article: "The law requires that all citizens, residents and visitors to [Kuwait] submit DNA samples to enter or stay in the country. It was passed in the name of national security and in helping identify victims of large scale attacks."

[...]

"Kuwaiti citizenship is restricted to families that have been there since 1920, and is passed down through fathers’ bloodlines, with few exceptions. [...] [O]ver the years some have acquired citizenship through a tangled web of sham marriages and Kuwaiti men claiming Bidoon children as their own in exchange for money."

"Now, with the DNA database, the government will be able to map the populations’ genes going back across generations, determining who might have gotten citizenship through one of these plots. [...]"

"Another way that the law might stand to be a game changer is that it will likely expose adulterers and women who have had children outside their marriage–crimes that carry severe punishments in the country [...]"

(via +Shava Nerad)
"I think that we reserve the word 'draconian' for instances such as this one," said one expert.
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One of the strange things about discussing police violence in the US is that we simply don't know how much of it there is. Despite what you might expect, police in most states are under no obligation to record and report if a person dies in their custody, or even if they kill someone in the line of duty. Back in 2000, Congress passed a law intended to fix this, but as we'll see in a moment, it hasn't quite worked.

Right now, there are only two national sources of data about this. One is the Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) maintained by the FBI, which is a list of homicides by police that have been ruled justified by either local law enforcement or the local FBI. (NB: "homicide" is not the same thing as "murder;" it means the death of a person because of the actions of another, which can include everything from accidents to self-defense to lying in wait with an axe)

The other is the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) list maintained by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) at the Department of Justice, created because of this 2000 law. It lists all "persons who died either during the process of arrest or while in the custody of state or local law enforcement personnel." This includes deaths which aren't homicides as well, such as suicides, drug overdoses, or accidents – but since one frequently asks whether a suicide was a suicide or "the worst case of suicide I ever saw, six gunshots to the back of the head," it's not a bad idea to log all of them. (Really, simply logging these things ought to be mandatory)

Unfortunately, ARD data is collected via voluntary compliance of state and local law enforcement – and quite a few states and localities have openly refused to provide any data, while other localities' data has proven to be so full of holes (e.g. by simple comparison to media reports) that it can only be described as a blatant lie. This failure was so severe that in 2014, the BJS suspended the entire ARD program pending a massive review. [1]

Congress is discussing passing a new law which would make reporting mandatory, not optional – but given the current state of Congress, passage is far from certain, and the states' treatment of ARD suggests that without some serious enforcement, deceit would be widespread. You would think that "keep track of everyone who died in the course of your job" would be a pretty reasonable thing to ask of most people, but apparently not.

So given two data sources which are full of massive omissions, you might think that we're SOL in figuring out just what the scale of deaths really is. But it turns out that this is not the only situation in which we face such a problem – and there are ways of dealing with it.

The article below was written by a statistician, a member of a team which analyzes mass deaths around the world: Kosovo, Colombia, Syria, and the like. In each of these cases, there are lists of the dead compiled by various sources, and each of them is tremendously full of holes for various reasons. But when you have multiple flawed lists, you can use statistics to estimate how big the original set might have been.

The article explains how this works in very clear language, but let me give you a taste. Imagine that N total people died, but you don't know N. Instead, you just have two lists, one of A people and one of B people. Now, if there were no correlation between these lists, you would expect that the probability for anyone to be on the B list is B/N. That means that the probability for someone on the A list to be on the B list as well is also B/N, so you expect there to be AB/N people on both lists. But since you know A, B, and the number of people on both lists, you can work out a first guess about N.

The trickier bits come from ways to take into account that the two lists often are correlated; for example, a death with more media attention is far more likely to be reported in both the ARD and SHR than one that goes below the radar. But this is exactly what statisticians have gotten good at for the past twenty-five years, and we can look at how lists like these from around the world do or don't correlate to get a range of how these two lists might relate.

When all is said and done, it's possible to pull out a number: somewhere between 1,250 and 1,500. That's the team's best estimate of the total number of people killed every year in police custody or during arrest in the US. Note that this doesn't try to split up justified versus unjustified deaths, which wouldn't be something you can do from statistics; it just gives us a scale of what's going on.

For comparison, in 2015 there were a total of 16,121 homicides of any sort in the US, [2] so police-involved deaths would account for about 8% of all deaths. But before you get too relaxed, remember that the overwhelming majority – about three quarters, by best estimates – of homicides are committed by people who know each other. (This makes sense; if you sit and make your better-dead list, it's going to contain people you know, not total strangers. People have more reasons to kill people they know.)

This means that roughly one third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police. That's an extraordinary number. And while I'll reiterate that this makes no attempt to separate the justified from the unjustified deaths, it does give us a sense of scale, and why the reports of police violence sometimes seem overwhelming.

The next step for such an analysis would be to note that police-related deaths aren't uniformly distributed in the population. We could use similar techniques to estimate what fraction of stranger killings are done by police by race. Without access to the full data [3], I can tell you that the fraction is going to be much higher if you're black, and somewhat lower if you're white. Mental illness is another very strong predictor, although I don't know if we have enough data to estimate the precise effect.

(This reminds me of another interesting article I read, although I can't find the citation right now: while the rate of rape of women is much higher than that of men, the rate of rape by strangers is actually close to equal. The difference for men is almost entirely accounted for by prisons, where (depending on the prison) rape is considered almost a standard part of punishment. A good general rule is that stranger crimes and acquaintance crimes tend to be very different beasts. This makes it somewhat surprising that our laws don't treat the two more differently.)

So if you're ever wondering why some people see death by police as a major risk, this is why. It turns out that, if you're going to be murdered by a stranger, the odds are pretty good that it's going to be a cop.

[1] For more, see http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=tp&tid=82
[2] See http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm . CDC statistics about death are really interesting.
[3] I can't give you a back-of-the-envelope answer, because the most naive calculation – using that most statistics of the form "black people are X times more likely than white people to encounter [negative event] with the police" seem to come up with X's around 3 – would tell you that all of them are, which is clearly false. So real statistics work is required, preferably done by real statisticians.
‘One-third of all Americans killed by strangers are killed by police.’ Patrick Ball measures the undocumented police killings in the United States.
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KING: Why I don't believe what police say after they kill someone
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-don-police-kill-article-1.2793583

Did Tyre really point a BB gun at police? Why in the hell would anyone point a BB gun at police?
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Social scientists who study extrajudicial killings say the real story is more complicated — and more tragic — than a simple story of good versus evil.
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FTA: Compare Trump’s haul of 88 to the 500 retired generals and admirals who took out a full-page ad in support of Mitt Romney on the eve of the 2012 presidential election. Romney had some big names, too. The group of 500 included Army General Hugh Shelton, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bill Clinton, as well as a former commandant of the Marine Corps and an Air Force chief of staff. In total, five ex-members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff backed Romney over President Obama. There are nearly 900 active general and flag officersin the military and thousands of retirees.
 
His campaign announced endorsements from 88 retired senior officers. That’s nice, but 500 backed Mitt Romney in 2012.
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The importance of sane minds on the SCOTUS...
(Remember there's a vacancy that the next president is going to fill?)
 
Ugh.

The ACLU, in a friend-of-the-court brief in the Stephens case, underscored the concerns that Ginsburg raised in Hobby Lobby. The implications of a ruling in the funeral homes’ favor would be “staggering,” it declared. “People hold sincere religious beliefs about a wide variety of things, including racial and religious segregation and the role of women in society. … If religious motivation exempted businesses from anti-discrimination laws, our government would be powerless to enforce those laws.”

Among other things, “business owners could refuse service to people of color, on the ground that their religious beliefs forbid racial integration. Employers could refuse to hire women or pay them less than men, because their religious beliefs require women to remain at home. And educational institutions receiving federal benefits could impose religiously motivated racial segregation policies on their students. All civil rights laws would be vulnerable to such claims where the discrimination was motivated by religion.”

Hobby Lobby, Ginsburg warned, was “a decision of startling breadth.” How broad is just now becoming clear.
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People. You always said you hated web ads. But good reporting takes money. He shouldn't be reduced to this. His company shouldn't be reduced to this. Go subscribe or go donate.

And please re-share this, so that others know about it as well.


Max Rosenthal, one of the people who worked on this story, wrote on FB
I am genuinely sorry about this brief moment of Earnest Facebook, but this is important:

1) Two months ago we published a huge story about the horrific conditions in privately-run prisons. Today the DOJ announced it's no longer going to use corporate prisons to house its inmates.

2) That story cost us 18 months and $350,000 or so to produce. The online ads that ran with the story earned about $5,000.

Basically, I work with incredible, world-changing badasses, but our industry's funding methods are far too broken to pay for the stories that actually matter. So please consider donating or subscribing to MoJo so we can keep doing this stuff (or, if you don't care about that, maybe at least so I can keep paying my rent).

http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2016/06/cca-private-prisons-corrections-corporation-inmates-investigation-bauer
I started applying for jobs in private prisons because I wanted to see the inner workings of an industry that holds 131000 of the nation's 1.6 million prisoners. As a journalist, it's nearly impossible to get an unconstrained look inside our penal system. When prisons do let reporters in, ...
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