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FBI overstated forensic hair matches in nearly all trials before 2000 - The Washington Post
<<Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.>>
law-enforcement  corruption  government  pseudoscience 
20 hours ago
The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox - NYTimes.com
<<Grant himself recognized that he had celebrated the war’s end far too soon. Even as he met Lee, Grant rejected the rebel general’s plea for “peace” and insisted that only politicians, not officers, could end the war. Then Grant skipped the fabled laying-down-of-arms ceremony to plan the Army’s occupation of the South.

To enforce its might over a largely rural population, the Army marched across the South after Appomattox, occupying more than 750 towns and proclaiming emancipation by military order. This little-known occupation by tens of thousands of federal troops remade the South in ways that Washington proclamations alone could not.

And yet as late as 1869, President Grant’s attorney general argued that some rebel states remained in the “grasp of war.” When white Georgia politicians expelled every black member of the State Legislature and began a murderous campaign of intimidation, Congress and Grant extended military rule there until 1871.

Meanwhile, Southern soldiers continued to fight as insurgents, terrorizing blacks across the region. One congressman estimated that 50,000 African-Americans were murdered by white Southerners in the first quarter-century after emancipation.>>
war  united-states  civil-war  slavery  confederate-states-of-america  terrorism 
7 days ago
'High' Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance by Olivier Marie, Ulf Zölitz :: SSRN
<<This paper investigates how legal cannabis access affects student performance. Identification comes from an exceptional policy introduced in the city of Maastricht which discriminated legal access based on individuals' nationality. We apply a difference-in-difference approach using administrative panel data on over 54,000 course grades of local students enrolled at Maastricht University before and during the partial cannabis prohibition.We find that the academic performance of students who are no longer legally permitted to buy cannabis increases substantially. Grade improvements are driven by younger students, and the effects are stronger for women and low performers. In line with how THC consumption affects cognitive functioning, we find that performance gains are larger for courses that require more numerical/mathematical skills. We investigate the underlying channels using students' course evaluations and present suggestive evidence that performance gains are driven by improved understanding of material rather than changes in students' study effort.>>
drugs  education  public-policy 
7 days ago
Fear in the Cockpit: The Differences Between the Plane Crash in Taipei and the Miracle on the Hudson
<< In this aroused state, we experience what’s known as “cognitive tunneling.” Our attention narrows as we focus on the danger at hand. An elevated heart rate and quickened breathing ensures that well-oxygenated blood reaches the muscles. The opening of the sweat ducts reduces the risk that exertion will lead to overheating. Cognitive tunneling means that all mental resources are focused on the main threat.

Yet there is also a flipside. With a narrowed focus it becomes hard to multitask, to think complex thoughts, to decipher instructions, or to generate novel solutions. Our judgment can be clouded, and experience thrown out the window. In extreme cases, we lose the ability to consciously control our behavior at all, and find ourselves willy-nilly engaging in ancient stereotypical behaviors like fighting, running, or playing dead. >>

exercise for reader: consider consequences for job interviews, other tests, claims that the society is basically meritocratic, etc. (I write this as someone who interviews relatively well and has done well on various tests all my life.)
psychology  cognitive-science  air-travel  via:hackernews 
9 days ago
Six Things You Didn’t Know the U.S. and Its Allies Did to Iran - The Intercept
Well, I knew most of these, but anyway, useful to have as a resource to forward to people.
history  united-states  iran  middle-east 
11 days ago
Facebook hosting doesn't change things, the world already changed — Remains of the Day
More on "the future of the Internet is TV" beat.

Also, on a perhaps more positive note:

<<It turns out that differentiated content is differentiated. When the world's an all-you-can-eat buffet of information, you want to be the king crab legs, not the lettuce bowl. The value of being a generalist as a reporter, someone who just shows up and asks questions and transcribes them into a summary article, is not that valuable.>>
internet  media  culture  social-software  futurism  journalism 
19 days ago
Exploding Software-Engineering Myths - Microsoft Research
Would like to see these replicated. Also the title is misleading: it's more "empirically validating commonly held beliefs" than myth-exploding. Nobody really doubted that assertions improve the quality of software. Also there are some severe correlation/causation issues here. Still, worth keeping in mind.

HN discussion here and some of it is not bad (comment by Silhouette seems like a good response to the alleged TDD findings):
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9286433
research  software-engineering  via:hackernews 
20 days ago
Ivy League Admissions Are a Sham: Confessions of a Harvard Gatekeeper
Overblown clickbaity headline but am bookmarking as evidence to be used in a future blog post.
social-inequality  social-engineering 
29 days ago
Project Zero: Exploiting the DRAM rowhammer bug to gain kernel privileges
Just amazing, and frustrating from the point of view of a programmer who generally tries to build secure systems. Use ECC RAM, kids.
hardware  hacking  security  operating-systems  exploits 
5 weeks ago
The Next Internet Is TV - The Awl
<< it’s not too hard to imagine how Content Internet’s web abandonment accelerates. Following a brief and painful period of can’t-beat-em-join-em soul searching, companies with the most financial and operational freedom experiment with channels in apps. “More people are over there, but we are here, so why don’t we go over there?” managers will ask-splain in tense meetings. These companies suddenly reach more people than ever. Some of them figure out how to make a lot of money in the process, either from some sort of revenue sharing or through sponsored content. They begin to see their websites as Just One More App, and realize that fewer people are using them, proportionally, than before. Eventually they might even symbolically close their websites, finishing the job they started when they all stopped paying attention to what their front pages looked like. Then, they will do a whole lot of what they already do, according to the demands of their new venues. They will report news and tell stories and post garbage and make mistakes. They will be given new metrics that are both more shallow and more urgent than ever before; they will adapt to them, all the while avoiding, as is tradition, honest discussions about the relationship between success and quality and self-respect. They will learn to cater to the structures within which they are working and come up with some new forms. Some of what worked in print didn’t work on the web; some of what worked on the web didn’t work on social media; some of what worked on social media won’t work in these apps. (If you think Facebook had a distorting effect on news as a mere referrer, just wait until it’s a host.)
...
In this future, what publications will have done individually is adapt to survive; what they will have helped do together is take the grand weird promises of writing and reporting and film and art on the internet and consolidated them into a set of business interests that most closely resemble the TV industry. Which sounds extremely lucrative! TV makes a lot of money, and there’s a lot of excellent TV. But TV is also a byzantine nightmare of conflict and compromise and trash and waste and legacy. The prospect of Facebook, for example, as a primary host for news organizations, not just an outsized source of traffic, is depressing even if you like Facebook. A new generation of artists and creative people ceding the still-fresh dream of direct compensation and independence to mediated advertising arrangements with accidentally enormous middlemen apps that have no special interest in publishing beyond value extraction through advertising is the early internet utopian’s worst-case scenario. >>
internet  media  culture  social-software  futurism  via:brad-delong 
5 weeks ago
A Union Charter Flunks Out: Randi Weingarten’s model school closes after years of failure.
<< "Our schools will show real, quantifiable student achievement and with those results finally dispel the misguided and simplistic notion that the union contract is an impediment to success." So declared teachers union chief Randi Weingarten in 2005 upon launching the United Federation of Teachers charter school in Brooklyn, New York. The UFT quietly let slip last week that this showcase K-8 charter school is closing after a legacy of failure. >>

To be taken with the standard grain of salt that this is the WSJ. OTOH if your media diet consists mostly of teacher's union partisans who blame public school failure on reformers and over-reliance on testing, you will see approximately zero coverage of this event, so consider this a dose of external sanity checking.
education  labor  public-policy  charter-schools 
5 weeks ago
Advice and Fallacies | Matt Mullenweg
<<It gets backs to the fallacy we talked about and agreed to avoid at the [WordPress.com leads] meetup, which is the business equivalent of Great Man Theory: the idea that a deficiency in the business or product will be solved by hiring someone senior to be in charge of that thing. Example: Automattic is bad at marketing, we should hire a CMO. (99% of the time when this is suggested it means an external person, because if anyone internal was good the problem wouldn’t exist.) It’s an easy thing for anyone to fall into, you can see it in [a recent internal thread].

This must work sometimes, because it seems to be a near-universal affliction of VCs on startup boards. It also is a little bit of a bikeshed, because while it can be difficult to understand or feel like you can have an influence on something fundamental to the product, like say the signup flow, most VCs have large professional networks and can have long and vigorous discussions talking about potential people who are executives in a given area and their first or second degree connections to them. Of course, like many of us, VCs are consumers of tech media which tends to ascribe all the success of an organization to a single person (like Sheryl Sandberg for Facebook not falling apart, or Adam Bain for revenue at Twitter). However often the problem has root causes more fundamental than a single person could shift.

I subscribe to a more environment-driven approach, that if you break down a problem into its component parts you can address them individually, often with relatively simple next steps, and build things from the ground up, rather than the top down.>>
management  social-organization  business  hiring  labor  software-development  silicon-valley  psychology 
6 weeks ago
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