The simple truth about why mass incarceration happened – Updated by German Lopez on August 30, 2015, 10:00 a.m. ET


How could US politicians possibly think it was a good idea to incarcerate millions of Americans starting in the 1980s, creating the system of mass incarceration we have today?

It’s a question that gets tossed around a lot nowadays, with varied answers — from claims it was an attempt to control the population to arguments that private prisons created a profit motive for locking up millions of Americans.

But there’s a much simpler explanation: The public wanted mass incarceration.

Chart of percent of Americans who said crime is "the most important problem."

It’s easy to forget now, but the politics of crime were huge in the 1990s. According to data from Gallup, never before or after the nineties have so many Americans said that crime is the most important problem facing the country today.

Americans had a very good reason for these concerns. From the late 1960s to the early 1990s, crime was unusually high. The country was still coming off what was perceived as a crack cocaine epidemic, in which the drug ran rampant across urban streets and fueled deadly gang violence. So Americans, by and large, demanded their lawmakers do something — and politicians reacted with mass incarceration and other tough-on-crime policies.

It’s very easy in hindsight to consider this an overreaction — now that we know crime began its decades-long decline in the early 1990s, and now that researchhas shown that mass incarceration only partly contributed to this decline.

But people didn’t know that at the time. They didn’t know crime was about to begin its long-term drop, and the research on mass incarceration was far from conclusive.

Politicians thought crime would get worse, not better

In fact, there were warnings at the time that things were on the verge of getting worse. One prominent concern in the 1990s — based on what turned out to be very bad social science research — suggested that there was an incoming epidemic of superpredators, violent youth who would rob and kill people. This great video, from the New York Times, captures the era well:

In this context, it was expected that all politicians — liberal and conservative — take a tough stance on crime. That’s partly why liberals like Hillary ClintonJoe Biden, and Bernie Sanders supported the 1994 crime law that contributed to mass incarceration. It’s why dueling candidates for governor in the liberal state of New York campaigned on who could be tougher on crime. And it’s why practically every state passed tough-on-crime policies throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

More than two decades later, criminal justice reform is all the rage. It’s an expectation for Democratic presidential candidates to have a progressive criminal justice platform. So the same politicians who caused this problem are being asked to undo what they did in the past. And they face a common question: How can they be expected to solve a problem that they helped cause?

Popular demand for tough-on-crime laws in the past doesn’t in any way excuse the devastation lawmakers inflicted on millions of people through mass incarceration and other policies. But based on voters’ concerns in the 1990s, if a politician didn’t contribute to the problem back then, he or she may not be prominent enough to run for president today. That’s how America ended up with mass incarceration — and the seemingly contradictory Democratic presidential candidates for 2016.

Article continues:

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/30/9223105/why-mass-incarceration

Fed Appears to Hold Line on Rate Plan By JON HILSENRATH And BEN LEUBSDORF Aug. 30, 2015 2:25 p.m. ET


Stock-market volatility and China’s woes fail to alter policy makers’ view of improving job market, economy

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, attending the Jackson Hole, Wyo., symposium, avoided sending a signal about whether the Fed will act to raise rates at its next meeting. PHOTO: JONATHAN CROSBY/REUTERS

Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, attending the Jackson Hole, Wyo., symposium, avoided sending a signal about whether the Fed will act to raise rates at its next meeting. PHOTO: JONATHAN CROSBY/REUTERS

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.—Federal Reserve officials emerged from a week of head-spinning financial turbulence largely sticking to their plan to raise U.S. interest rates before the end of the year.

During the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual economic symposium here, many policy makers signaled that stock-market volatility and China’s woes haven’t seriously dented their view that the U.S. job market is improving, and that domestic economic output is expanding at a steady, modest pace.

Inflation might remain low for longer thanks to falling oil prices and a strong dollar. Officials will continue to keep a close watch on markets and China. But they hope U.S. consumer-price inflation will start inching toward their 2% annual target as the economy’s untapped capacity gets used up, leaving them in position to start raising rates after several months of forewarning.

“There is good reason to believe that inflation will move higher as the forces holding inflation down—oil prices and import prices, particularly—dissipate further,” said Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer in comments delivered to the conference, which ended Saturday.

The Fed has said it will raise rates when it is reasonably confident the inflation rate will rise again to 2%. Mr. Fischer’s comments suggested he believed the economy is closer to that point, although he pointedly avoided sending a signal about whether the Fed will act at its next meeting.

“I will not, and indeed cannot, tell you what decision the Fed will reach by Sept. 17,” Mr. Fischer said.

Article continues:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/fed-appears-to-hold-line-on-rate-plan-1440959106

 

Shooters Quicker To Pull Trigger When Target Is Black, Study Finds – NPR STAFF AUGUST 29, 2015 6:37 PM ET


Shown a realistic human target — not just a silhouette like this one — shooters were more likely to pull the trigger if the target was black, according to an analysis of 42 studies. "Even if you think that you're not prejudiced," says researcher Yara Mekawi, "that doesn't necessarily mean that that's true in terms of split-second decisions that you might make in the real world."

Shown a realistic human target — not just a silhouette like this one — shooters were more likely to pull the trigger if the target was black, according to an analysis of 42 studies. “Even if you think that you’re not prejudiced,” says researcher Yara Mekawi, “that doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s true in terms of split-second decisions that you might make in the real world.” Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Are most people more likely to pull the trigger of a gun if the person they’re shooting at is black?

A new meta-analysis set out to answer that question. Yara Mekawi of the University of Illinois and her co-author, Konrad Bresin, drew together findings from 42 different studies on trigger bias to examine whether race affects how likely a target is to be shot.

“What we found is that it does,” Mekawi tells NPR’s Arun Rath. “In our study we found two main things: First, people were quicker to shoot black targets with a gun, relative to white targets with a gun. And … people were more trigger-happy when shooting black targets compared to shooting white targets.”

That is, shooters weren’t just faster to fire at black targets; they were also more likely to fire at a black target.


Interview Highlights

On the kinds of studies they were analyzing

Our inclusion criteria was pretty much that they used what’s called a first-person shooter task. … Participants are generally told that police officers are often put in high-stress situations where they have to make very quick shooting decisions.

And so they are presented with images of targets from various races that either have a gun or have some kind of neutral object. So, sometimes it’s a soda can; other times it’s a cellphone. And what they’re told is, to make the decision to shoot when they see a target with a gun.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/2015/08/29/435833251/shooters-quicker-to-pull-trigger-when-target-is-black-study-finds

 

Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to three years in jail by Egyptian court – August 29, 2015 6:25AM ET Updated 9:39AM ET


Jailing of Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy, and Peter Greste a ‘death knell for freedom of expression,’ says Amnesty

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at Aug 30, 2015 3.30

A court in Egypt has sentenced three Al Jazeera journalists to three years in jail after finding them guilty of “aiding a terrorist organization.”

Egyptian Baher Mohamed, Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and Australian Peter Greste were all handed three-year jail sentences when the court in Cairo delivered the verdict on Saturday, sparking worldwide condemnation of the decision.

Mohamed was sentenced to an additional six months for possession of a spent bullet casing. An appeal against the verdicts is planned.

Judge Hassan Farid, in his ruling, said he sentenced the men to prison because they had not registered with the country’s journalist syndicate.

He also said the men brought in equipment without security officials’ approval, had broadcast “false news” on Al Jazeera and used a hotel as a broadcasting point without permission. Following the sentence hearing, both Mohamed and Fahmy were escorted to Tora prison in southern Cairo, according to Egyptian media.

Article continues:

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/8/29/al-jazeera-journalists-sentenced-to-three-years-in-jail-by-egyptian-court.html

Iowa Poll Shows Bernie Sanders Closing In on Hillary Clinton – By PETER NICHOLAS 8:14 pm ET Aug 29, 2015


Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Eldridge, Iowa, earlier this month. Getty Images

A new poll in Iowa shows Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton losing considerable ground to her chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, despite having built a formidable network of organizers and volunteers in the state that holds the first presidential contest.

The Iowa poll, released Saturday, showed Mrs. Clinton to be the first choice of 37% of likely Democratic caucus-goers. Mr. Sanders, an independent, received 30%, according to the survey by the Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics.

The Iowa caucuses are set for Feb. 1.

In the 2008 campaign, Mrs. Clinton was the frontrunner in Iowa for much of the contest, only to see her lead evaporate as then-Sen. Barack Obamastormed to a first-place finish.

The Des Moines Register story about the survey quoted J. Ann Selzer, pollster for the Iowa Poll, saying: “This feels like 2008 all over again.

The Iowa poll comes after recent surveys in New Hampshire showed Mr. Sanders erasing Mrs. Clinton’s lead, as she contends with a controversy surrounding her use of a private email account and server during her tenure as secretary of state.

In a statement Saturday,  a spokesman for Mr. Sanders said: “What this new poll shows is that the more Iowans get to know Bernie, the better they like him what he stands for. We’ve seen the same thing in New Hampshire and across the country.”

In recent days the Clinton campaign has been touting its strength in Iowa. It put out a memo on Thursday saying, “By the numbers: The campaign has 47 organizers on the ground with more on the way,11 offices open from river to river where volunteers are being engaged, at least one identified supporter in each of Iowa’s 1,682 precincts, and the support of critical community leaders across the spectrum who are committed to Hillary Clinton and will power this campaign for the next five months.”

Since May, Mrs. Clinton’s support among likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers has dropped by 20 points, while Mr. Sanders’s backing has risen by 25 points since January, Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll results show.

The survey had some good news for Vice President Joe Biden, who is weighing a possible campaign. Even though he’s not a candidate, Mr. Biden was the first choice of 14% of likely caucus-goers – nearly double the level of support he received in May.

Mr. Biden finished fifth in the Iowa caucuses in 2008 and then dropped out of the race.

Article continues:

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2015/08/29/iowa-poll-shows-bernie-sanders-closing-in-on-hillary-clinton/

 

The New Tech of Disaster Response, From Apps to Aqua-Drones – TIM MOYNIHAN: 08.29.15. : 6:00 AM.


Hurricane Katrina was a tale of three disasters. The first was natural, a violent storm that devastated the Gulf Coast. The second was man-made, the catastrophic failure of levees protecting New Orleans. Together, these disasters killed more than 1,800 people and displaced half a million families. Damages ran into the billions, and the recovery continues even now.

The third was also man-made, and the most maddening: the failure of preparation, logistics, and action at every level. The Federal Emergency Management Agency drew widespread criticism for a slow, disorganized response that bordered on incompetence, and its poor communication and coordination with local and state authorities.

If such a disaster occurred today, FEMA insists it would respond swiftly and efficiently. It points to the leadership of Craig Fugate, whom President Obama tapped to head the agency in 2009. Fugate, unlike his much-maligned predecessor Michael Brown, is a former director of the Florida Emergency Management Division and has extensive experience managing disasters responses, particularly hurricanes.

No less importantly, FEMA has embraced key reforms, not the least of which is the authority to act immediately. Until 10 years ago, the agency had to await a governor’s request for federal aid before jumping in.

“One of the most important improvements we’ve made came as a result of congressional action to authorize FEMA to deploy resources to states before a presidential declaration request has even been made,” says Ted Okada, the agency’s chief technology officer. “If FEMA believes that a situation will require a presidential disaster declaration, we’re now authorized to expend funds out of the Stafford Act to prepare. By pre-staging resources such as water, generators, and staff, we’re able to faster mobilize response efforts.”

FEMA hasn’t faced a test quite like Katrina, but its ability to move quickly has changed how it responds. Even before Hurricane Sandy pummeled New York in October, 2012, FEMA deployed truckloads of food, water, generators and other supplies. Some 900 employees were standing by, primed to provide any assistance once the storm made landfall.

post-Sandy audit by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, gave the agency top marks. “FEMA prepared well for this disaster, overcame operational and staffing challenges, quickly resolved resource shortfalls, made efficient disaster sourcing decisions, and coordinated its activities effectively with State and local officials,” concluded the report. State and local officials, including New Jersey governor Chris Christie and New York senator Chuck Schumer offered similarly positive reviews.

The change in attitude and policy proved instrumental in setting FEMA on a new course. But technology played an equally important, if somewhat less obvious, role in how the agency and its counterparts at the state and local level, prepare for and respond to a crisis. These changes run the gamut from a comprehensive smartphone app to broader adoption of drones and robots.

The agency’s embrace of new tech prompted it to formalize the role of CTO, consolidating roles held by various people before Okada came aboard. It was a wise move, given how quickly things have changed in the past decade. When Katrina hit, social media was in its infancy, people still got a lot of their news from television and radio, and Blackberry and Razr phones were state of the art. These days, 40 percent of Americans use their phones to access government services, and 68 percent of them use phones to keep track of breaking news events, according to the Pew Research Center.

“FEMA must be able to reach at-risk populations that get their information from Twitter and Facebook,” Okada says. “We use social media as a platform to get information out, but also engage in widely distributed conversations. Better situational awareness allows us to improve decision making, leading to better survivor outcomes.”

According to FEMA, the app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times since it launched in 2011, and the organization has hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook. Social media played a larger role than ever helping FEMA and local organizations communicate to residents during Hurricane Sandy. To combat false information on Twitter during the storm and its aftermath, FEMA created a “Rumor Control” page and has done the same during more recent emergencies.

At the state level, disaster-response teams also are embracing social media. Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, says the agency has streamlined statewide communications during events and created a two-way street of communication.

Article continues:

http://www.wired.com/2015/08/fema-disaster-tech/

 

How I Became A Bikini Body Builder – As Told To Andrea Bartz for Trending NY AUG 28, 2015


Sabrina Mercado, 24, devoted a year to grueling training and life sans simple carbs—all so her body could be judged onstage.

Illustration by Ben Wiseman

​I played water polo in college, but after school, I couldn’t find a workout routine that fit. I started looking at fitspo on Instagram, and these female bikini athletes had the most incredible, muscular figures—I thought, “How can I look like that?” My stepdad and boyfriend helped me start lifting weights, and for a year and a half, I watched my body transform. Then I decided to see how far I could take it; I wanted to look back in 20 years and say, “I did this, I pushed myself, I looked like this.” So I signed up for a bikini bodybuilding competition.

In bikini bodybuilding, women compete onstage for the title of best physique. It isn’t the scary, steroid-y bodybuilding you’re thinking of; the women are just super fit, like models in a Nike ad. My very first competition was the World Beauty Fitness & Fashion Show on July 11, and I started training in January. It was a full-time commitment: I did 1½ hours of lifting five days a week, and I drank a huge amount of water and ate every 2½ hours. I took in 3,000 calories a day: After my morning workout, I’d have a double serving of oatmeal plus 2 cups of egg whites, scrambled. At 10 a.m., I’d eat one of those big, squat tubs of Greek yogurt and three slices of bread. And that was all before 11 a.m.

In spring, I started a new job in merchandise planning, and halfway through a meeting I’d have to get up and grab food to stay on schedule. I was the new girl who always had stinky ground turkey at her desk. On my first day, I blurted out, “Oh, it’s nice my desk is so close to the bathroom!” because I had to pee every 25 minutes. And I was totally that weirdo eating sweet potatoes and green beans on the subway. It wasn’t cute.

I couldn’t drink alcohol or deviate from the eating plan, so my social life took a hit. I’d order seltzer at bars and pull out a Tupperware of ground meat at restaurants. It was tough on my relationship, too, because I had so little energy—I’d say, “You can come over and sleep next to me!” But my boyfriend was  supportive, as were my friends and family.

My body was so depleted right before the competition, thanks to four hours at the gym every day and no carbs. I cried almost every day. Then I walked onstage and it all faded away. I thought, “Every second of the last six months was leading to this.” I felt so proud of myself! It was such a crazy rush of endorphins. Then I walked off and tore into a bag of Oreos. I didn’t place, but I know I did my best. I’m looking forward to having margaritas and pizza and cookies again, but I might sign up for a November competition and get back into training mode soon. I want to do better.

You know, I’ve been told my whole life that my brain is the most important thing, not my body, and it was funny to be doing something that’s strictly about my looks. I understand the criticism, but—have you ever worked so hard for something and then gotten an opportunity to showcase it? The rush of that moment on stage…for that, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

The US may have to go after the ‘Great Firewall’ to stop China’s cyber-attacks – South China Morning Post Sun Aug 30 2015


 

obama china cyberAssociated PressUS President Barack Obama is expected to take a firm line on the issue of hacking during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit.

As the world recalls how two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan to end the second world war in Asia 70 years ago, a digital deterrent of a similar magnitude could be Washington’s only way to stop cyber attacks from the latest Asian aggressor, China, experts say.

United States president Barack Obama is due to entertain his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Washington next month on a state visit and the issue of cyber espionage will “no doubt” be addressed, Obama said recently.

The issue rose to the fore in the wake of a major attack this summer on the US Office of Personnel Management, which saw hackers make off with the personal information of over four million current and former federal workers.

Officials have pointed the finger at hackers linked to China’s People’s Liberation Army, saying the data poses a security risk as it contains military records and other sensitive information, potentially including state secrets.

“We absolutely have to do something,” said Dennis Poindexter, author of The New Cyberwar: Technology and the Redefinition of Warfare.

As such hacks become more audacious the US needs the cyber equivalent of a nuclear deterrent, added Poindexter, a former faculty member at the Defence Security Institute under the US department of defence.

He pointed to this year’s OPM hack as an example of Chinese hackers inadvertently crossing the line of “acceptable” state espionage.

Former head of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency Michael Hayden told the Washington Post after the attack that “if I could have done it [as head of the NSA], I would have done it in a heartbeat”.

“You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did,” said US director of national intelligence James Clapper in June, referring to the sophistication of the hack.

Article continues:

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-us-may-have-to-go-after-the-great-firewall-to-stop-chinas-cyber-attacks-2015-8