Daily Archives: November 28, 2011

Robotic prison guards to patrol South Korean prison


The prison guard robot prototype is set to go on trial in March

BBC | Nov 25, 2011

Robot wardens are about to join the ranks of South Korea’s prison service.

A jail in the eastern city of Pohang plans to run a month-long trial with three of the automatons in March.

The machines will monitor inmates for abnormal behaviour. Researchers say they will help reduce the workload for other guards.

South Korea aims to be a world leaders in robotics. Business leaders believe the field has the potential to become a major export industry.

The three 5ft-high (1.5m) robots involved in the prison trial have been developed by the Asian Forum for Corrections, a South Korean group of researchers who specialise in criminality and prison policies.

It said the robots move on four wheels and are equipped with cameras and other sensors that allow them to detect risky behaviour such as violence and suicide.

Prof Lee Baik-Chu, of Kyonggi University, who led the design process, said the robots would alert human guards if they discovered a problem.

“As we’re almost done with creating its key operating system, we are now working on refining its details to make it look more friendly to inmates,” the professor told the Yonhap news agency.

The one-month trial will cost 1bn won (£554,000) and is being sponsored by the South Korean government.

It is the latest in a series of investments made by the state to develop its robotics industry.

The country’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said in January that it had spent the equivalent of £415m on research in the sector between 2002 and 2010.

It said the aim was to compete with other countries, such as Japan, which are also exploring the industry’s potential.

In October the ministry said the Korean robot market had recorded 75% growth over the past two years and was now worth about £1bn.
Robots everywhere

Success stories reported by the Korean media include Samsung Techwin’s sale of a robotic surveillance system to Algeria and shipments of the humanoid Hubo robot to six universities in the US.

The South Korean defence company DoDAAM is also developing robotic gun turrets for export which can be programmed to open fire automatically.

Within the country English-speaking robotic teaching assistants are already being deployed in some schools to help children to practise their pronunciation.

The Joongang Daily newspaper reported in August that a company called Showbo had begun mass producing a robot that bowed to shop customers and told them about promotions on offer.

Other firms say they hope to start selling robots to help care for the elderly before the end of the decade, and personal assistant robots further down the line.

The government is also building a Robot Land theme park in the north-west city of Incheon to help highlight the country’s success. Planners say they hope 2.8 million people will visit each year.

Give Ritalin to four-year-olds with ADHD, say experts

Children as young as four should be given Ritalin for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), according to experts.

Telegraph | Nov 17, 2011

By Stephen Adams

One in 12 children now suffers from the condition, say doctors who are advising that preschoolers should be checked for signs of the condition.

The updated guidelines are from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an influential body whose pronouncements are studied with great interest by child health experts in Britain.

The guidelines were presented yesterday (SUN) at the AAP’s annual conference in Boston, by lead author Dr Mark Worlaich, professor of paediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

He said: “Treating children at a young age is important, because when we can identify them earlier and provide appropriate treatment, we can increase their chances of succeeding in school.”

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He and colleagues advised that a doctor “should initiate an evaluation for ADHD for any child four through 18 years of ago who presents with academic or behavioural problems and symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, or impulsivity”.

Doctors “should recognize ADHD as a chronic condition”, and those diagnosed with it should be regarded as having “special health care needs”.

Physicians “may prescribe methylphenadate” – the generic name for the branded drug Ritalin – to four or five-year-olds if “behaviour therapy” fails, they wrote.

Such children could even be put straight on Ritalin if “behavioural treatments are not available”.

The updated US guidelines bring down the age at which children should be assessed and treated for ADHD from six to four.

Sue Morris, director of professional training in educational psychology at Birmingham University, said the guidelines would help fuel a “maelstrom of concern” about prescribing Ritalin to children.

She said: “The British Psychological Association (BPA) and the Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) are already extremely worried about cavalier prescribing of psychotropic medication to children.”

She believed any move towards wider prescribing to pre-schoolers was “something that would find very little support in Britain”.

Ritalin is not licensed for use in children under six in the UK, although the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has issued guidance that it can be used in very limited circumstances.

Earlier this year, David Traxson, a child psychologist, said at least 100 children aged three to five in the West Midlands were on “potentially addictive” Ritalin or similar drugs.

In total, about 660,000 Ritalin prescriptions for children are made every year, a sevenfold increase since 1997.

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the AEP, said she had “serious concerns” about widening prescription to under sixes, due to the “very sensitive nature of children’s brains”.

She said: “These medications are very powerful. We advocate caution because there are no long term studies looking at their effects on developing brains.

“This is part of a wider issue of concern, of the medication of behaviours we don’t like.

“Rather than resorting to medication, we should be using environmental influences such as good nurturing support from adults.”

Dr John Houston, a consultant paediatrician based at Lorn and Islands Hospital in Oban, and a spokesman on ADHD for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said while British experts took note of the AAP, their guidance came from Nice.

He said: “In the UK we are more reluctant to medicate our kids, and I think that’s a very good thing.”

He also said the American classification of ADHD was much broader than the British approach, under which about one child in 100 was diagnosed.

Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein must register as NY’s highest level sex offender

palmbeachdailynews.com | Nov 22, 2011

By Michele Dargan

Jeffrey Epstein must register in the state of New York as the highest and most dangerous level sex offender, despite efforts by the Palm Beach billionaire, his attorneys and even a New York prosecutor to lower it.

A New York appeals court Thursday upheld a lower court’s ruling that Epstein must register as a Level 3 sex offender. A Level 3 status means “high risk of repeat offense and a threat to public safety exists,” according to the state’s guidelines.

Even though Epstein pleaded guilty to one count of sex crimes involving a minor girl in Palm Beach and one count of solicitation, there is plenty of evidence there were many more victims, according to the four-page ruling.

Epstein’s criminal convictions — for which he served 13 months of an 18-month sentence with liberal work release hours — requires him to register as a sex offender in every state where he owns a home. One of those homes is in Manhattan.

In siding with Epstein’s request for the lowest status — Level 1 — the New York prosecutor “mistakenly” disregarded crimes with other minor victims that Epstein was not charged with and considered only the one count he was charged with, the ruling says.

“The strong evidence that the offense against the other victims did occur outweighs any inferences to be drawn from the manner in which this case was prosecuted in Florida,” the ruling states. “The reasons for the actions taken by the Florida authorities remain unclear on this record.”

Epstein has settled more than two dozen lawsuits and claims against him by teen-agers who say they were lured to his Palm Beach mansion to give him sexually charged massages and/or sex in exchange for money. The terms of all settlements are confidential.

It was during a Jan. 18 hearing on Epstein’s sex offender registration act (SORA) hearing in New York that his attorneys tried to get his status set at the lowest level with the blessing of Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Gaffney. Yet, the New York State Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders recommended Epstein be designated a Level 3.

Gaffney said she was unable to rely on the Palm Beach Police’s probable cause affidavit — which listed multiple victims and multiple charges — since the state attorney went forward on only one count of soliciting a minor. Gaffney said the victims, although they spoke to police early on, did not cooperate.

Judge Ruth Pickholz would have none of it.

“I have to tell you, I am a little overwhelmed because I have never seen a prosecutor’s office do anything like this,” Pickholz said. “I have done many SORAs much less troubling than this one where the [prosecutor] would never make a downward argument like this.”

Gaffney said she tried to reach the assistant state attorney who handled the case (in Palm Beach County), but that prosecutor had left the office, and Gaffney said she was unable to obtain any more information.

Federal guidelines state that offenders must register as a sex offender in every state where the person has a home. Epstein has homes in Palm Beach, Manhattan, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as Paris. According to his sex offender registration, Epstein’s primary residence is in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.

On behalf of Epstein, attorney Sandra Musumeci told Pickholz that Epstein’s New York home is a vacation home. If Epstein is required to register as a Level 3 offender, that means Epstein must return to New York every 90 days and renew his registration, Musumeci said.

“He can give up his New York home if he does not want to come every 90 days,” Pickholz said.

Climategate scientists DID collude with government officials to hide research that didn’t fit their apocalyptic global warming


The University of East Anglia, where most of the emails originated – none of the newly released emails appear to be post 2009, but clarify the extent of government involvement in the scandal

‘The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering.’

  • 5,000 leaked emails reveal scientists deleted evidence that cast doubt on claims climate change was man-made
  • Experts were under orders from US and UK officials to come up with a ‘strong message’  
  • Scientist asks, ‘What if they find that climate change is a natural fluctuation? They’ll kill us all’

Daily Mail |  Nov 25, 2011

By Rob Waugh

More than 5,000 documents have been leaked online purporting to be the correspondence of climate scientists at the University of East Anglia who were previously accused of ‘massaging’ evidence of man-made climate change.

Following on from the original ‘climategate’ emails of 2009, the new package appears to show systematic suppression of evidence, and even publication of reports that scientists knew to to be based on flawed approaches.

And not only do the emails paint a picture of scientists manipulating data, government employees at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) are also implicated.

One message appeared to show a member of Defra staff telling colleagues working on climate science to give the government a ‘strong message’.

The emails paint a clear picture of scientists selectively using data, and colluding with politicians to misuse scientific information.

‘Humphrey’, said to work at Defra, writes: ‘I cannot overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the government can give on climate change to help them tell their story.

‘They want their story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.’

Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the centre of the affair, said the group findings did stand up to scrutiny.

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Yet one of the newly released emails, written by Prof. Jones  – who is working with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – said: ‘Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get – and has to be well hidden.

‘I’ve discussed this with the main funder (U.S. Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.’

In another of his emails, he wrote: ‘I’ve been told that Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is above national Freedom of Information Acts.

‘One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.’

Other scientists are clearly against such a policy, but some seemed happy to collude with concealing and destroying evidence.

One nervous scientist wrote: ‘The figure you sent is very deceptive.’

‘I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run,’ wrote another.

The lead author of one of the reports, Jonathan Overpeck, wrote, ‘The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guide what’s included and what is left out.’

A weak performance by Environment Secretary Chris Huhne on Question Time has helped to inflame the row over the second leak of private  UEA emails  – now described as Climategate 2.0.

Former Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation warned against ignoring ‘shortcomings’ in a letter strongly critical of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

It said: ‘The BBC, in determining its policy towards the coverage of global warming, which is of course not simply a scientific issue but an economic and a political issue, too, ought to shred that section of the Jones review and revert to the impartiality laid down in its charter.’

He was also strongly critical of sections of the media who lent support to the scientists.

Andrew Orlwowski, UK science site The Register’s science correspondent comments on one email that says, ‘What if climate change turns out to be a natural fluctuation? They’ll kill us all’

Orlowski says, ‘That won’t be necessary.’

Clive Crook, a commentator for the Atlantic, who described the earlier inquiries into the Climategate emails as ‘ineffectual’ and ‘mealy mouthed’, reportedly said, ‘The closed-mindedness of these supposed men of science, their willingness to go to any lengths to defend a preconceived message, is surprising even to me.

‘The stink of intellectual corruption is overpowering.’

There is other correspondence from scientists such as Prof Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Centre at Penn State University, some of which have a distinct feel of PR ‘spin’.

The release of the information echoes the ‘Climategate’ leaks of hacked private emails two years ago ahead of crunch climate talks in Copenhagen that referred to ways to ‘hide the decline’ in global warming.

A series of independent reviews cleared the East Anglia researchers of impropriety, but they were told they had been too secretive.

Today’s leak may also be timed to disrupt the next session of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change next week in South Africa.

The emails have been released in the form of quotes carefully ‘chosen’ to show bias, or that scientists were pursuing a particular agenda in their research.

The unnamed individuals who released them chose the 5,000 emails from keyword searches, saying, ‘We could not read every one, but tried to cover the most relevant topics.’

The emails were posted on a Russian server – Sinwt.ru – as a downloadable ZIP file in an apparent attempt to cause disruption in advance of next week’s climate change conference in Durban.

They were rapidly reposted on climate-sceptic blogs such as The Air Vent.

It is not clear, though, whether they are new, or indeed whether they indicate any kind of conspiracy.

The release of the data was accompanied by a ‘press release’ in the form of a readme file, which said, ‘Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.’

‘Poverty is a death sentence. Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.’

‘Today’s decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline,’ said the file.

The identity of the people who posted it was not revealed – although the clear political statement is new.

The file also contains more than 200,000 other emails, which are encrypted, and no password is provided.

Presumably, this is to protect the individuals involved – or simply because the material is so non-controversial or boring that it’s not worth releasing.

The University of East Anglia has not confirmed whether the material is genuine.

None of the material appears to be new, either: it seems to date from the first release in 2009.

It also occurs against a rather different scientific background, after  the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature review of climate-science data by prominent climate sceptic Richard Muller, which analysed 1.6 billion temperature records, and concluded that global warming was a genuine effect.

It is still unclear what effect – or combination of effects – is causing the current warming of the atmosphere, which has risen around one temperature in the past 50 years.

Professor Mann, speaking to the Guardian, described the release as ‘truly pathetic.’

‘Well, they look like mine but I hardly see anything that appears damning at all, despite them having been taken out of context.

‘I guess they had very little left to work with, having culled in the first round the emails that could most easily be taken out of context to try to make me look bad.’

A police investigation is ongoing.

The Gaddafis just knew too much


Embrace: Tony Blair lifted sanctions on Libya and became a close ally of Gaddafi

What dirty secrets can Saif tell the world?

Daily Mail | Nov 25, 2011

By Peter McKay

There was always something fishy about our so-called triumph in Libya. For a start, our mission statement — saying we were preventing Gaddafi’s forces from killing civilians — was phoney. We were there to kill the Gaddafis.

Although it was low-risk, shooting-fish-in-a-barrel stuff, neither ourselves, the French, nor the Arab League would have done it without American support.

But why do it at all? President Assad of Syria has killed far more innocent people and we threaten him with sanctions, not bombs.

Because Gaddafi was easy meat. It allowed David Cameron and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, at low cost, to stride the world stage as military leaders.

We didn’t have a clue about the character of those who rose against Gaddafi. We pretended they were simple patriots fighting to end his cruel, 41-year dictatorship.

Professor Hugh Robert, who specialises in North African history, says in a London Review Of Books article, Who Said Gaddafi Had To Go?: ‘The Western media generally endorsed the rebels’ description of themselves as forward-looking liberal democrats, and dismissed Gaddafi’s exaggerated claim that Al Qaeda was behind the revolt. But it has become impossible to ignore the fact that the rebellion has mobilised Islamists and acquired an Islamist tinge.’

As for Libya embracing democracy, the country’s interim ruling body, the National Transitional Authority,  says Sharia law will determine future governments, pre-empting any elected body. And now we learn that Tripoli’s new military commander, Abdul Hakim Belhadj, used to train Al Qaeda recruits.

When the rebels executed Gaddafi, who was found hiding in a storm drain after a Nato air strike, we expressed regret in perfunctory, ‘accidents-will-happen’ terms. Now Libyan Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib says Gaddafi’s captured son, Saif al-Islam, ‘will receive a fair trial under fair legal processes which our own people have been deprived of for the past 40 years’.

In other words — despite helping them get rid of the Gaddafis —  we should keep our noses out of  their affairs.

So, discussions here turn on whether Saif might now reveal details of his pre-downfall friendships with the likes of Tony Blair, Prince Andrew, Peter Mandelson and wealthy banker Nat Rothschild.

This could help his defence against war crimes charges if he was prosecuted by the International Criminal Court at The Hague. But would it work in Libya?

He could ask distinguished old friends to testify that he was determined to bring a measure of democracy to Libya. Perhaps they’ve  written letters to him acknowledging this. That may resonate at The Hague, but in Tripoli…?

In 2003, Tony Blair introduced a UN resolution which lifted sanctions against the terrorism-sponsoring state. He publicly embraced  Colonel Gaddafi in Tripoli.  Blair remained in touch with the Gaddafi family after they came under attack from rebels.

Prince Andrew was ultra-chummy with the Gaddafis, making several visits to Tripoli. He is also said to have entertained Saif at Buckingham Palace  and Windsor. For all I know, Saif even had tiffin with the monarch herself.

Nat Rothschild entertained Saif in New York, England and at his Corfu villa. Then Business Secretary Lord Mandelson — a chum of Rothschild’s — met Saif at the Corfu villa. Bachelor boys who got on famously.

Saif may summon senior officials from the London School of Economics (LSE), where he obtained a PhD. There are suspicions he was given help with his thesis there by distinguished Establishment figures. The college’s director, Sir Howard Davies, had to resign after it was disclosed that Saif’s charitable foundation  subsequently gave the college a £1.5 million donation. Such generosity!

Last year — after being invited to give a speech at the LSE — Saif was introduced by Professor David Held (one of his academic advisers when a student at the college) as ‘someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration’. Call Professor Held for the defence!

Certainly there are issues on which Saif — if he’s allowed to speak — may bring clarification. The mysterious process whereby madman Muammar Gaddafi was embraced by his former enemies in the West after renouncing terror and giving them access to his oil. How did that work?

The Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, for which Gaddafi paid huge compensation to the  victims’ families but at the same time denied responsibility. (Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the atrocity, thinks quite plausibly that the Iranians were responsible for Pan Am 103, taking revenge for America’s guided missile cruiser, USS Vincennes’ shooting down of an Iran Air  Airbus 300, killing 290 people.)

None of what Saif might say necessarily reflects well on our politicians — Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat. Nor on the Americans, our Secret Intelligence Service, the Royal Family, Big Oil and the banking sector. Not forgetting the London School of Economics.

Whichever way you look at it, the Gaddafis just knew far too much, didn’t they? They had to go.

More support the US becoming Communist than approve of Congress


A dark cloud passes over the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Many lawmakers fear that Congress’ already low approval rating will sink even further after the failure of the supercommittee. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Even Lawmakers Ask: Does Anyone Like Congress?

NPR | Nov 25, 2011

by David Welna

It’s long been the case that only a minority of Americans approves of the job Congress is doing. But last month things hit a new low: For the first time ever, a CBS News-New York Times poll showed Congress’ approval rating had plunged to a single digit — 9 percent.

And following this week’s failure by the congressional supercommittee to agree on a deficit reduction plan, many lawmakers fear that number can only get worse.

One evening a couple of weeks ago, Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet rose to speak in a nearly empty Senate chamber. Clearly exasperated, he warned his absent colleagues that their 9 percent approval rating was fast approaching the margin of error for 0 percent approval.

“More people support the United States becoming communist — I don’t, for the record — at 11 percent, than approve of the job that we’re doing,” Bennet said. “I guess we can take some comfort that Fidel Castro is at 5 percent.”

‘What Is The Problem?’

The ranks of Congress haters would seem to be growing. But how do lawmakers themselves explain the low esteem they’re held in?

As Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., put it: “It’s not enough for people to say Washington is broken. It just is not enough.”

Just minutes after the bipartisan supercommittee that Kerry sat on admitted failing to reach an agreement, he told reporters the question that had to be asked was: “What is the problem?”

“And I will say to you after these three months [when the supercommittee was in existence] that it is clear to me that the problem is a huge ideological divide in our nation,” he said.

That’s Michigan Rep. Candice Miller’s take on the problem as well. Before heading home for the Thanksgiving break, the fifth-term Republican noted that voters did elect a divided government last year.

“We are really a reflection of the country, I think, right now, because you have about half the country that probably wants more government, more government spending, etc., more government regulation. You have the other half of the country that is saying, ‘no,'” she says.

But Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., doesn’t think those stark differences should necessarily lead to congressional paralysis.

“We’re approaching this, both sides, as though this is an ideological battle to be won, rather than a practical problem to be solved,” he says.

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Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., recently warned his colleagues from the Senate floor that their approval rating is fast approaching the margin of error for 0 percent approval.

Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat who has been in Congress nearly three years, says she’s frustrated with many of her colleagues.

“I’m kind of embarrassed for us,” she says. “I mean, I feel like as a member of Congress, I do the right thing, and I’m on the side of right, but the fact is, if the entire institution can’t act and can’t move forward and can’t find a way to work with the president in such tough economic times, we deserve the blame heaped back on us.”

‘It’s Worse Than It Looks’

Historically, Congress has resolved its differences and gotten things done through compromise. But Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., says compromise is not what everyone wants.

“Every time I’m in the streets of my district, one person will grab me and say, ‘Don’t you think it’s about time you compromised?’ The next person will say, ‘I’m sick and tired of your compromising. What’s wrong with you? Can’t you stand on principle?'” Kingston says.

And that is what makes it so hard for Republican lawmakers like Kingston simply to split the difference, says Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning Washington think tank. Ornstein has been watching Congress and writing about it for decades. He says not even members from solidly GOP districts can feel safe these days making deals.

“For Republicans in Congress right now, in the House especially, what they’re looking at is primaries ahead,” Ornstein says. “And we know a number of these Tea Party freshmen are much more worried about a challenge from the right in a primary — somebody saying he’s ‘gone Washington’ because he’s voted for something — than they are about what happens after that in the fall.”

Ornstein says he’s not surprised Congress has just gotten its lowest approval rating ever. His last book about that institution, published five years ago, was titled, The Broken Branch. The working title for his next book on the same subject is, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks.